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“The Next Jon Jones”: Bellator Signs 18-Year-Old Prospect Aaron Pico to Long-Term Contract

(Photo via Dave Mandel/ Sherdog)

He’s been called “The Greatest MMA Prospect” by Bob Cook. He’s been called “The Next Jon Jones” by The MMA Corner. At just 18 years of age, he’s already inked a sponsorship deal with Nike. He’s a FILA national championship winner in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling and a Junior Golden Gloves national champion. His name is Aaron Pico, and he just inked a “long-term contract” with Bellator.

The announcement was made by the promotion during Bellator 131 on Saturday, who insisted that their contract with Pico (the terms of which have yet to be disclosed) would not interfere with his upcoming bid for the 2016 Olympics. Said Bellator President Scott Coker:

Simply put, Aaron has all the makings of MMA’s next great superstar, and to have him here at Bellator is something special. Like many of us in the MMA community, Aaron is someone we’ve been watching closely over the last few years, and after sitting down with Bob Cook and his team, getting a chance to meet Aaron, and hearing his long-term aspirations, the fit became very obvious.

A wrestler since the age of 4, a boxer since he was 10, and a Pankration tournament competitor since about 13, Aaron Pico is arguably one of the most accomplished athletes to ever cross over to mixed martial arts — someone who truly lives up to the “fighting is in our DNA” mantra that Dana White loves to reminds us of. As MMAFighting detailed in their write-up of Pico, a few more of his already legendary accomplishments include:

As a boxer, when he was 12, he captured not only the PAL national championship in his age group in that sport, as well as the Upstanding Boxer award, but followed it up the next year at the Junior Golden Gloves championships. He also won the European Pankration championship in the Ukraine.

And in his most impressive accomplishment, in November, the high school sophomore, in tournament competition, defeated Alibeggediz Emeev, the No. 3 Olympic caliber wrestler on the Russian national team in his weight class, an unheard of accomplishment in that sport.

He was 42-0 at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., winning both the California state and national championships. The closest anyone came to him in a match was losing by ten points, and this was as a freshman. He was considered by many as the best pound-for-pound high school wrestler in the country, but he’s not going after any of Hodge’s collegiate records.

Why won’t Pico be chasing any of Danny Hodge’s records? Because Pico announced back in January that he would finish up his high school classes online and travel abroad to focus on freestyle wrestling full-time in preparation for the Olympics. In the time since, he’s already trained with the Russian and Cuban national wrestling teams, as well as continued with his boxing training back here in the States.

And now, it appears that Bellator’s bantamweight division will be his new home. Whenever Pico does decide to don the 4 oz. gloves, Pico will do so as the only national champion wrestler *and* boxer in MMA History. So tell me, Taters, is this kid destined to become the next Jon Jones, or the next Henry Cejudo?

-J. Jones

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