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Freeman vs Pico added to Bellator NYC

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Aaron Pico's promising mixed martial arts debut finally has a B-side.

St. Louis' Zach Freeman will stand across from Pico at Bellator 180 held at Madison Square Garden on June 24. Bellator 180 is the lead-in to Bellator NYC “Silva vs. Sonnen,” the promotion's pay-per-view event. The Bellator 180 preliminary card will be televised on Spike.

Freeman, a lightweight out of St. Charles MMA, is 8-2 and last fought in September for the RFA (Now LFA) lightweight championship, a bout he lost by unanimous decision to Thiago Moises (9-1). Freeman is rugged, strong, and durable, having fought Moises with a broken hand and a jaw and five of his wins have come by submission.

The California-based Pico signed with Bellator in 2014 at 18-years-old. But since then his energy went into making the U.S. Olympic wrestling team and he was one victory short of doing so at the 2016 Olympic trials. Pico's wrestling dossier includes a cadet world championship, two-time junior world medalist and Olympic Trials finalist. A high school state wrestling champion at 132 pounds, Pico bypassed college for international freestyle wrestling. Pico has a boxing background, including a National Junior Golden Gloves title in 2009. Pico – who is coming off a 2016 torn ACL - has been doing his MMA training at American Kickboxing Academy.

“I have so much to learn in MMA,” Pico said at press conference prior to Bellator 157: Dynamite 2 in St. Louis. “I want to be great in this sport and I know that it will take work. It's definitely different training than straight wrestling. I love boxing and I think it makes you so much more confident in the cage knowing that your hands can throw combinations and you have seen high-level boxers throwing punches at you. It's one aspect of the game that is reassuring.”

Bellator 180 - Fight Card

Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione
Michael Chandler (c) vs. Brent Primus [a]
Douglas Lima (c) vs. Lorenz Larkin
Aaron Pico vs. Zach Freeman

Ryan Bader vs. Muhammed Lawal
James Gallagher vs. Chinzo Machida