Aaron Pico’s bumps in the road are a couple years behind him. These days, he’s in Bellator’s featherweight title conversation.

There’s just one problem with that, though. Pico (9-3 MMA, 9-3 BMMA) long has said he won’t fight friend and former teammate A.J. McKee (18-0 MMA, 18-0 BMMA), who won Bellator’s 145-pound title in July 2021 with a knockout of then-dual champion Patricio Freire. And McKee has said the same.

McKee in late 2020 said for $100 million each, he and Pico would fight. That comment, after a win over Darrion Caldwell in the Bellator featherweight tournament semifinals on his way to the title, was tongue in cheek considering he knew that would be an impossibly high payday.

Bellator president Scott Coker, though, isn’t too worried about what might happen if later this year Pico finds himself in line for a title shot against McKee – who doesn’t have his first defense lined up yet.

“They obviously feel a certain way toward each other, which I totally respect,” Coker recently told MMA Junkie. “We just haven’t had that conversation at a certain level. What I mean by that is, I’m not sitting down with Aaron saying, ‘Aaron, do you want to do this? Do you want to do that?’ And, ‘If you get to that No. 1 (contender) spot, A.J. is going to be there, and if you want to be the champ …’ None of those conversations have happened.

“To me, it’s like, let Aaron fight, keep fighting, keep doing his thing, and then if he gets to that point, then we’ll have a conversation with him. But it’s very clear they don’t want to fight each other. At some point, if Aaron can get to that point, then we’ll probably have to have that conversation. This sport is so crazy – you never know. It could be perfectly lined up, and then one thing happens and then you’re heading in a different direction.”

Pico had back-to-back knockout losses in 2019. But since then, he has five straight wins, including four stoppages. His decision win over Justin Gonzales at Bellator 271 this past November was Gonzales’ first loss and the most high-profile win in Pico’s streak.


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