UFC champ T.J. Dillashaw praises Bellator's Aaron Pico as 'one of a kind'

LOS ANGELES – UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw has nothing but praise for arguably the most promising prospect in the sport today.

Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) is a teammate of Bellator featherweight Aaron Pico. The 21-year-old rising star has had hype around him since signing with Bellator as a teenager and, with four fights in less than a year, has begun to show why with his performances.

Although Dillashaw, No. 1 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, has been aware of Pico (3-1 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) for some time, the pair have started working closely together in recent months. They routinely train in Southern California, and the UFC champ put over Pico with a full endorsement.

“The kid’s an animal,” Dillashaw told reporters, including MMAjunkie, at a recent media luncheon in Los Angeles. “One of a kind. Just even watching him wrestle when he was 16 years old and beating grown men in the toughest sport in the world in my mind, wrestling. And just how tough he was then and how competitive. Then getting to know who Aaron Pico is, the kid’s a champ. Even if he’s not it yet, he is. In no time he will be.

“He’s technically in the martial arts. He’s awesome. Mentally he’s one of the strongest guys I’ve ever worked out with. He’s one of a kind, man., for sure.”

After stumbling in his MMA debut with a submission loss at Bellator NYC in June, Pico has reeled off three consecutive wins – all by knockout, including a “KO of the Year” candidate at Bellator 192. He’s showing noticeable strides with each fight, and if that continues, it won’t be long until he meets Dillashaw’s championship expectations.

Dillashaw, who puts his 135-pound title on the line against Cody Garbrandt (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) at UFC 227 on Aug. 4, has a reputation for being highly competitive in the gym, perhaps even to his detriment. He said Pico comes with an even more intense mentality, though, and that’s likely why Dillashaw has bonded so well with the youngster.

“I’ve never worked harder in my life than with my strength and conditioning coach, and Aaron makes it look easy,” Dillashaw said. “I’ve always been the most competitive guy. I’ve always been – every gym I’ve gone to I’ve always been like, ‘Yeah, I’m the most competitive.’ I get a bad wrap for it. I always want to beat everyone at everything no matter what it is. Aaron’s the only guy I’ve ever worked out with that’s more competitive than me. … The kid, he’s something else, man.”

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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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