Opponent named for Pico's pro MMA debut

Aaron Pico was a runner-up at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials (Photo/Tony Rotundo,

Aaron Pico learned he will be facing Zach Freeman in his pro MMA debut at Bellator's first-ever event in New York City on June 24, the mixed martial arts organization recently announced.

The Pico-Freeman lightweight (155-pound) bout is one of five on the main card at what is called Bellator: NYC pay-per-view event at Madison Square Garden headlined by a light-heavyweight showdown featuring Wanderlei Silva vs. former University of Oregon wrestler Chael Sonnen. In the co-main event, Fedor Emelianenko makes his Bellator debut against Matt Mitrione. The preliminary card, titled Bellator 180, features two ex-college mat stars: Ryan Bader and Phil Davis, and will take place prior to the pay-per-view matches.

Freeman, who launched his pro MMA career in 2011, brings an 8-2 record -- including five wins by submission, and one by TKO -- to his fight with Pico.

A high school state wrestling champion at 132 pounds, Pico, 20, chose to bypass a collegiate mat career to concentrate on freestyle wrestling. At the U.S. Olympic team trials in 2016, Pico defeated Jayson Ness, Jordan Oliver and Reece Humphrey before falling to former NCAA national champion Frank Molinaro in the 143-pound final. In addition to his wrestling credentials, Pico brings an amateur boxing background to MMA, having won a National Junior Golden Gloves title in 2009.

Pico signed with Bellator in November 2016.

"Simply put, Aaron has all the makings of MMA's next great superstar, and to have him here at Bellator is something special," said Bellator MMA president Scott Coker in a press release.


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