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“The greatest prospect in MMA history” got knocked down but changed the recruiting game

By Zach Arnold | June 24, 2017

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Is Aaron Pico the greatest prospect in MMA history?

Survey says… not after getting knocked down and choked out by Zach Freeman in 24 seconds at the Bellator MSG PPV on Saturday night. That’s a negative.

Now here’s a positive — ESPN picked the wrong headline to highlight how Aaron Pico has helped changed the game for recruitment of future Mixed Martial Arts talent. Bellator has been paying Pico for nearly three years while he was trying to make the Olympics in wrestling. In response, UFC has initiated their own “developmental program.”

This type of hybrid developmental program is much more useful to Bellator than UFC. It allows Bellator to compete when they can’t outspend in free agency. Bellator has stepped up in free agency recently and has been aided by UFC’s adhesive advertising policy with Reebok. Bellator can’t compete with UFC for the highest-level talent but they can fight on the margins. It’s really a classic Scott Coker promotional manuever.

Bellator NYC was all about the past, present, and future

Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo. Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. Tito Ortiz. Matt Mitrione and Fedor.

If you can’t sign the best fighters in the world, sign fighters with name ID and mix in some nostalgia with a home stable of fighters. It was bad luck for Bellator to have Aaron Pico lose and for Michael Chandler to get hurt the way he did.

I don’t like Chael Sonnen being a top face of Bellator MMA but I understand why a promoter would want him to be. He’s the best talker. High profile fight history and name ID. He’s on ESPN and can turn a crowd on the dime when he wants to. He’s also the face of the testosterone plague in MMA. Chael Sonnen is Alex Rodriguez without the social awkwardness. Tito Ortiz is close.

The crowd reaction for both Chael and Tito at Bellator NYC justified why those guys continue to get paychecks. It’s like watching a Legends MMA division come to life. An idea from the message boards to your television set. Chael vs. Tito is exactly the kind of fight that breaks through the incredible noise on social media platforms in 2017.

Scott Coker has always used the Cotton Candy philosophy to promote MMA. You get a little bit of everything under the circus tent. As long as he can continue recruiting new, younger fighters to go along with the main acts, he will have a job and stay relevant.

Topics: Bellator, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

3 Responses to ““The greatest prospect in MMA history” got knocked down but changed the recruiting game”

  1. Chris says:

    Agreed. Not a great card, but a fun night of fights and craziness

  2. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    Bellator nyc was thrillingly disappointing. or disappointingly thrilling…
    It was without a doubt more entertaining than any ufc card this year. The main event was a great back and forth mma battle which I never expected to see. Lots of shock value with chandler dropping primus while standing on one leg, Pico and Fedor both getting destroyed double knock down.

    Bellator had lots of pluses…the new exciting announcing, the Connor Mcgregor clone, tons of celeb fighters in the house, 2 pride vs ufc matches, stitch duran, it felt like “home”.

    Coker really blew it with the match making however.

    Bader Davis should have never been booked. I started reading a book during the first round and took a 15 min nap at the start of the fourth round even though I had an energy drink an hour before.

    Horrible irresponsible job matching Pico with a 6 year mma vet with a 9-2 record. You match him with a 1-1 guy who’s been fighting for a year, or a 2-5 year vet with a 2-9 record.

    Fedor should have been fighting Congo or someone more beatable. We know Fedor, we want that Fedor tear through some near shot fighters.

    • Diaz's packed bowl says:

      Having watched the post presser and reading a little more about it, seems it wasn’t Cokers fault for throwing Pico to the wolves.
      Pico’s stoned coaches insisted on him fighting an experienced winner. Then they blew it by smoking crack instead of formulating a gameplan. He needs a good coach like Hume or whoever coached Hardy. Hardy was impressive in HER debut because she used boxing exclusively for the first round at least.


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