Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearHeralded as the future of the sport when he signed with the mixed martial arts promotion in November 2014, expectations were through the roof for Pico when he finally transitioned from the wrestling mats into the cage. But as promising as he looked on paper and as much as his coaches and teammates sang his praises, few could have anticipated the Whittier, California resident being this good, this quickly, especially after how his career started.A terrible start leads to a terrific runThrough his first five appearances, Pico has yet to see the second round and while he’s made quick work of his last four opponents, the shortest bout of his brief career was his debut loss to Zach Freeman.Positioned on the main card of Bellator 180 at Madison Square Garden in New York City and matched up against the 10-fight Freeman, the bout was supposed to be the grand arrival of the blue chip prospect everyone had been waiting nearly three years to see — a chance for Pico to validate the hype, begin his career with a quality victory over a solid competitor and start on the road to championship gold and superstardom.Instead, he got wobbled seconds into the first round of his career and was quickly submitted.It was a disastrous start, but one that became the foundation for Pico’s current run of success.“It wasn’t the end of the world for me,” Pico said of the loss to Freeman. “As a kid, I won a lot and I won championships. But what would always stick out is when I lost a match in some of the biggest tournaments in my life, it was devastating. But my dad would always say, ‘The most important thing is how you come back from it.’ And I would always come back and put on a show, so it was nothing new to me.“It’s not that I didn’t have my things in order before the fight,” continued the surging featherweight, who returned three months later and knocked out Justin Linn to register his first professional victory. “I did the best I possibly could to prepare for the fight, but after we had that loss, we really sat down as a family to figure out what were the best things for me as far as training, what we needed to do, what direction we had to go and that’s what we did.”Four months after stopping Linn, he defeated Shane Krutchen with a vicious body shot in just 37 seconds. Four months later, he needed 70 seconds to settle Lee Morrison. Four months after that came the victory over Higo — the one that made it clear that the blue-chip prospect whose career started with a high profile defeat had already morphed into a legitimate title contender.“It was a big step for me,” Pico said of the victory over Higo. “He’s fought for a world title at 135 and he was coming up in weight, so it felt good, especially being in San Jose. It was a big stepping stone — it was the first fight on DAZN, a lot of people were watching and that’s the way I wanted it to end. [But] I like the term prospect because I’m still trying to prove myself and I kind of always want to hear that. Even when I’m in my 30s, I still want to be trying to prove myself, so I’m going to consider myself a prospect until the day I retire.”Next Stop: The ForumThis weekend, Pico returns to action against Henry Corrales in the co-main event of Bellator 214 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.After dropping each of his first three appearances inside the Bellator cage — to Daniel Straus, Emmanuel Sanchez and Patricio Pitbull, mind you — the 32-year-old Corrales has tallied four consecutive victories. Following back-to-back decision wins over Noad Lahat and Georgi Karakhanyan, the De La O Jiu Jitsu representative stopped TUF alum and former King of Pancrase, Andy Main, at Bellator 208 to run his winning streak to four.Though not the highest profile name in the division and more of a lateral move than a step up the competitive ladder for Pico following his emphatic win over Higo, the youngster knows the man he’s facing this weekend is tough as nails and is happy to be competing for the fourth time in the last 53 weeks.“I knew it was coming and I knew the matchup was going to present itself,” Pico said of the pairing with Corrales, which will hit the cage ahead of the Heavyweight Grand Prix finale between Fedor Emelianenko and Ryan Bader on Saturday night. “I knew he was on a four-fight winning streak and he’s knocking at the door for a world title.“He’s a very, very tough guy,” he added. “I keep saying that when everybody asks me, ‘Who’s the guy you’re fighting?’ He’s very tough. He’s a veteran in the sport. He’s been in some wars, but being tough can only get you so far. Skills pay the bills and I feel I have better skills and I know what I’m capable of doing.”The FutureShould Pico add another victory to his resume on Saturday and push his winning streak to five, the Bellator brass will have some interesting decisions to make regarding the burgeoning superstar.Beating Corrales would be another clear signal that Pico has outgrown his prospect label and officially cemented his standing as a legitimate title threat. And there are few fights the promotion could make that would be bigger than pairing the surging phenom against two-time, reigning featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.While it’s certainly something Pico has considered, his greater focus for the time being is continuing to gain experience and staying active, while working his way up the divisional ladder.“God-willing, everything goes as planned and I’m injury-free, I want to stay as active as possible,” he explained. “I’m young. I’m hungry. I’m searching for big fights and to be a world champion, so it doesn’t do me any good to be sitting around. The more I can stay active and keep progressing is better for me. There are no names, but I know anybody that is ranked above me or gets me closer to getting that title, I’m all for it.And if a bout with Freire comes, the 22-year-old knows he’ll be up for the challenge, although he’s aiming even higher. Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearHe wants to be the best fighter in the world.“I think I’m very close to being a world champion in Bellator, but being the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, I still have a lot of work to do,” said Pico. “I have many, many years ahead of me in this game, so it’s a work in progress, but that’s what wakes me up every day.” Aaron Pico is both the best prospect in the sport and not a prospect at all.On one hand, the 22-year-old is just 19 months and five fights into his professional career in the cage. On the other hand, the Bellator MMA featherweight has earned four straight first-round stoppage victories and capped his 2018 campaign by settling former bantamweight title challenger Leandro Higo in just over three minutes.