Aaron Pico’s highly-anticipated Bellator MMA debut will come on the promotion’s biggest stage possible.
Pico will square off against Zach Freeman at lightweight in the opening bout of the Bellator NYC “Silva vs. Sonnen” pay-per-view card at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 24. The booking was announced during the Bellator 178 broadcast on Friday night.
The California-based promotion’s second-ever pay-per-view offering is headlined by a light heavyweight showdown pitting Wanderlei Silva against Chael Sonnen. In the co-main event, Fedor Emelianenko makes his Bellator debut against Matt Mitrione. The preliminary card, entitled Bellator 180, precedes the pay-per-view bill and features a 205-pound tilt between recently-signed UFC veteran Ryan Bader and Muhammed Lawal.
A high school state wrestling champion at 132 pounds, Pico elected to skip a college career to focus on international freestyle wrestling. At the U.S. Olympic team trials in 2016, Pico bested Jayson Ness, Jordan Oliver and Reece Humphrey before falling to former NCAA national champion Frank Molinaro in the 143-pound final. In addition to wrestling, Pico has a boxing background, including a National Junior Golden Gloves title in 2009. The 20-year-old has been training at American Kickboxing Academy in preparation for his MMA career.
Pico is not getting a pushover for his first MMA foray. Freeman enters the matchup with an 8-2 record and is coming off a five-round decision defeat to Thiago Moises in a title bout at Resurrection Fightign Alliance 44 this past September. Freeman has finished five of his wins by submission and won via TKO.