Pico is one of the great MMA prospects - he’s won medals in boxing and wrestling, a junior Golden Gloves winner and a Cadet freestyle wrestling world champion. Undeniable.
This morning, however, Aaron is waking up with a 4 - 2 pro MMA record after a devastating KO loss at Bellator 214. If you haven’t seen it yet. Check it out.
At 22 a loss like this shouldn’t be considered too much more than a speed bump. Give it a few months and get back on the horse… right? But there are some really important things to consider regarding Aaron’s career.
He’s been getting hit in the head since before he was 12 years old.
He’s been sparring hard against the likes of TJ Dillishaw and Miguel Cotto. Elite level boxing and elite level MMA. Week in week out. For years.
Consistently sustaining neurological trauma from an early age puts tremendous wear and tear on the brain and can severely affect cognitive ability as well as lead to disorders like CTE further down the road. Already it would be impossible to guess how many times he’s been clipped in sparring or had his head slammed into the wrestling mat.
When recovering from a concussion the brain is significantly weakened, taking further damage during this period causes a compounding effect on the brain resulting in permanent damage and weakened chin.
In order to allow the brain to heal fully you have to provide it with a few key things.
- Rest. The brain needs rest. For the first several days after an concussive impact this doesn’t just mean sparring, screen time should be reduced too. Anything that makes the brain work too hard needs to go.
- Nutrition. In the hours and days post impact, the cells in the brain are still dying as a result of chemical imbalances and a reduction in available oxygen. Providing the brain with powerful anti-oxidants as well as nutrients that reduce glutamate toxicity mitigates some of this damage to the brain. For recovery, ensuring there’s plenty of Omega 3’s in the diet is essential as they are fundamentally the building blocks for the brain.
- Blood flow. Low stress cardio like getting on a bike at the gym gets the blood pumping and helps increase blood flow to the brain. This allows for more oxygen to access the damaged areas of the brain, reducing overall recovery times.
Remember Chris Holdsworth? The Ultimate Fighter 18 winner and recipient of TJ Dillishaw’s infamous after the bell knee in practice that left Holdsworth with a concussion. That happened in 2014, Holdsworth hasn’t fought since. He continued to spar after the incident and kept getting concussive symptoms leading to him announcing his early retirement from the sport.
Aaron is an ultimate competitor - from what he’s achieved at such a young age to the way he fights, everything he does is to win. There’s no doubt he’ll want to get back on that horse and compete, but a mismanaged concussion can be career ending.
So, now Aaron Pico is facing a career defining recovery period - possibly his greatest challenge yet. Get it right and his future could be legendary, but get it wrong and what was an unfortunate KO loss could turn into MMAs greatest story of what could have been.