Aaron Pico has always set high standards for himself.
Pico, a 19-year-old who just missed out on qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team earlier this year, has already signed a long-term deal with Bellator MMA once he hangs up the wrestling shoes.
While his wrestling journey began at an incredibly early age, Pico has known for the past nine years that combat sports were where he was eventually headed.
“At 10 years old, I knew I was going to fight,” Pico said, during a recent interview with FightLine. “I knew it was going to be either boxing or MMA.
“(My goal) is to develop and work towards being the greatest fighter on the planet.”
His resume reads like that of a 20-year veteran in the sport, including several titles captured at the senior level. Pico also won silver at the 2014 FILA Junior World Championships and holds accomplishments in boxing and pankration.
Among his boxing crowns are a title at the 2009 National Junior Golden Gloves, where he was also named outstanding boxer, and the 2010 Golden Cup European Pankration Championship.
This June, Pico will compete at The Forum in Inglewood, California – site of UFC 199 – in the 2016 Men’s Freestyle Wrestling World Cup. The event will feature several members of the U.S. Olympic team in a final contest before leaving for the Summer Olympics.
“I’m putting on a little size for the event, coming up from (143 pounds) to 158,” he said of the World Cup.
Pico finished second at 65kg/143 pounds at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City. The chance to wrestle in the same arena that has featured many of the best of the best was one he will never forget.
“It was a special experience for me, not only because it was the Olympic trials, but because of where it was held,” Pico said. “Growing up, I’ve seen some of the Iowa matches at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It was a place that I saw myself competing at one day.
“The people in Iowa were great.”