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Henry Corrales will face featherweight super prospect Aaron Pico at Bellator 214 on Jan. 26 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Despite being a veteran of 19 bouts, Corrales does not expect to receive the focus of promotion for the fight, and he understands why.
“The guy’s good. He’s [expletive] legit,” the former King of the Cage champion told Sherdog.com. “His hype is justifiable. That dude’s put in work. He’s smashing some guys.”
The idea of being overshadowed by his inexperienced counterpart does not faze Corrales. Even though he is Pico’s elder by 10 years and has competed inside a cage 14 more times, he recognizes the talented young threat ahead of him. Instead of seeing the situation as a slight to his eight-year run in the sport, Corrales views it as a chance to ply his craft under a larger spotlight.
“I am actually grateful for the opportunity on the big stage,” he said.
Pico entered the sport as one of its most highly touted prospects. He made it to the finals of the 2016 United States Olympic Trials in freestyle wrestling as a 19-year-old, competed in Golden Gloves boxing and won championships in the submission grappling art of Pankration before he pondered a career in MMA. While he fell to veteran Zach Freeman in his Bellator 180 debut, the Team Bodyshop rep has shown the promise of his pedigree in subsequent appearances, as he has authored four straight first-round finishes. In his most recent routing, Pico cut down former bantamweight title challenger Leandro Higo. The hype surrounding him appears to be warranted, and the added attention gives Corrales a jolt of excitement as he prepares for their encounter.
“[It] puts that extra little tingle in you,” he said.
While Corrales may be energized, Pico has quickly established himself as one of the sport’s most ferocious body punchers. It is an aspect of Pico’s attack for which Corrales has readied himself.
“My midsection is definitely conditioned for whatever he has to throw at it,” he said. “He’s in a fight. If he throws at my body, I’m going to be chucking, too, so we’ll see what’s up.”
Corrales has delivered six of his 16 career victories by knockout or technical knockout. At Bellator 208 in October, he floored Andy Main with a massive left hook and closed him out with punches 2:08 into the third round. Corrales believes he has more than enough punching power to threaten Pico.
“We feel like that [about] anyone with a chin, anyone with a face,” he said.
If things were to go favorably on the feet for Corrales, he is aware that his opponent has other skills to draw upon. While Pico is a highly credentialed grappler, Corrales trusts in the training he receives at the MMA Lab in Arizona. Ahead of Bellator 214, he has trained alongside Ultimate Fighting Championship competitors Drakkar Klose and Bobby Moffett, along with Combate Americas fighter Michael Hamel. It has instilled confidence in Corrales.
“We have some legit wrestlers around that are keeping me on my toes,” said Corrales, who has gone 4-0 since moving to the MMA Lab in 2016. “[The gym is] just so sought-after [by] people all over the country, actually all over the world. We’ve got [Chan Sung Jung, aka] ‘Korean Zombie’ in town right now.”
Pico certainly seems to be on an upward trajectory. He has gone about honing his skills with some of MMA’s best and brightest, including Cub Swanson, Juan Archuleta, A.J. McKee and reigning UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.
“He’s training with a lot of high-level fighters,” Corrales said, “so we’re preparing for the best Aaron Pico.”
While Corrales respects the 22-year-old’s abilities, he has no plans to lose sleep over them.
“It’s kind of a waste of energy to sit back and wonder what this guy’s all about,” he said.
Instead, Corrales works to ensure he is peaking at the right time and doing what he can to force Pico to adjust to him. In the event that he secures a fifth consecutive victory, Corrales would relish another chance to face current Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire. They squared off in April 2016, when Freire was between title reigns. Corrales claims that he could not put his best foot forward in their first encounter, as he submitted to a second-round guillotine choke. He had just returned to training after being sidelined following extensive dental surgery in which he had bone grafted to his gums to repair several damaged teeth.
“I got like six teeth smashed out, so I wasn’t really training. I was only back in the gym for a couple of weeks, and then that [fight] pops up,” he said. “I fought him last time on like 12 or 13 days’ notice. I’m super interested in that rematch with ‘Pitbull.’”
First, Pico awaits.