Coach: ‘Aaron Pico is going to win a world championship in 2023 for Bellator’



Bellator 238 Julia Budd v Cris Cyborg
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Aaron Pico is back to full health — and he has big plans for 2023.

The 26-year-old has been out of action since injuring his shoulder midway through the first round of his October 2022 bout against Jeremy Kennedy at Bellator 286, leading to a doctor’s stoppage loss for Pico between rounds. The setback snapped a six-fight win streak that propelled Pico to the brink of Bellator featherweight title contention, but according to Pico’s coach Brandon Gibson, the incident proved to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise.

“He’s even better than he was,” Gibson said recently on The MMA Hour. “He needed that shoulder surgery. It was a long, lingering injury. It was unfortunate how that fight with Jeremy Kennedy went — I cannot wait to run that back. That’s something that motivates me every single day. Aaron’s shoulder is stronger than ever. It’s actually scary.

“I’ve been having to really tape my wrists [during padwork], his left hook has been so powerful and so fast. And also while he was rehabbing that left shoulder, man, he just continued to polish every bit of his game, from the mental to the physical.”

Pico remains one of Bellator’s most promising homegrown prospects.

The California native made his MMA debut with the promotion in 2017 as one of the most ballyhooed young talents in the sport, and though he dealt with some early growing pains in the form of losses to experienced vets Zach Freeman, Henry Corrales, and Ádám Borics, Pico found his stride in recent years under the tutelage of Gibson. His six-fight run from January 2020 to April 2022 was one of the more violent under the Bellator banner at the time, with Pico scoring five stoppage wins over his six victorious performances.

Now Pico is set to return on April 22 at Bellator 295 against Otto Rodrigues, and Gibson is confident that big things lie ahead for the top-ranked featherweight over the coming year.

“Aaron Pico is going to win a world championship in 2023 for Bellator, I have no doubt in my mind,” said Gibson, who also serves as a longtime trainer to UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones. “My two students are going to be two champions by the end of this year.”

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