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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Zach Freeman vs. Aaron Pico a stark contrast in experience, hype for Bellator NYC

Aaron Pico, left, reacts after beating Reece Humphrey,

Aaron Pico, left, reacts after beating Reece Humphrey, right, in their 65-kilogram freestyle match at the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials on April 9, 2016, in Iowa City. Photo Credit: AP / Charlie Neibergall

Are you in the market for some commercial furniture?

After he’s done fighting at Bellator NYC on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, Zach Freeman can probably help you out.

“I sell floor-to-ceiling wall systems for companies like (Bellator MMA parent company) Viacom, so if you guys need any glass walls, please let me know,” Freeman said at a news conference Thursday. “I’d love to get some business. I mean, my bosses would love me for that.”

The 33-year old is 8-2 in his professional mixed martial arts career, but it’s clearly not his only focus while he holds down a regular job. That made preparation for his high-profile fight against hyped Bellator prospect Aaron Pico a unique challenge.

“I’m the only guy, I think, up here with a day job. Balancing that on top of training for this fight is not too easy,” Freeman said. “But I’m definitely putting all the work into it that I could to make sure I preform on Saturday night.”

Freeman said he trains twice a day with an eight-hour workday in between. He uses his busy travel schedule to his advantage by training at different gyms around the nation with new partners to get different perspectives.

“I travel the country, I’ve been to Denver, Chicago. I’ve been in Austin, Dallas, Houston just in the recent weeks, so it’s kind of nice getting to go around to the different gyms and train, got to train with some really good guys.”

Freeman will fight Pico, an untested but highly touted prospect with an impressive wrestling credentials making his MMA debut.

“He’s probably, arguably the most, as far as prospects, one of the most highly recruited prospects in MMA over the last five or six years,” said Bellator president Scott Coker.

Pico signed a developmental deal with Bellator at age 18, allowing him to try out for the Olympic wrestling team while still earning money. Pico was successful at the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling trials but didn’t make the team, thus allowing his focus to turn to MMA.

Now 20, he’ll have his first fight — professional or amateur — at the Garden and on pay-per-view.

“People have just been saying enjoy it, have fun,” Pico said. “You’re at Madison Square Garden, you’re in New York, just enjoy it, the work’s been done. Can’t really get much better in a week. I’ve been getting my practices in, but I’m enjoying it.”

Pico also has a background in amateur boxing, and with no film for opponents to watch at this point, he’s a true unknown entering the cage.

“That’s the question everybody’s been wanting to know, what I’m going to be doing, but I think it’s good not having tape,” Pico said. “A lot of people don’t know the skills I’ve had, but come Saturday night, they’re going to know.”

Pico is getting more attention as fight night draws near, but Freeman isn’t upset he’s the B-side to their fight.

“Actually, I thank Aaron for this opportunity, I wouldn’t be able to be up here speaking at this practice, I probably wouldn’t get the chance to fight Aaron,” Freeman said. “The fact that I get to compete at Madison Square Garden in the prime of my career, I’m extremely excited.”

It certainly won’t hurt business.

New York Sports