Hatley (8-2 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) upset rising Peruvian fighter Gaston Bolanos in his Bellator debut in February. Hatley was a major underdog entering that fight – a designation which he currently holds entering the Pico (5-3 MMA, 5-3 BMMA) fight, as well.
“When I beat (Gaston) Bolanos, he was a big favorite,” Hatley told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “They had me at a 12 percent chance of winning. I don’t really read comments or anything, but I remember (on) Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, there were about 500 comments with people saying, ‘You’re going to die.’ With Aaron, they’re giving me like a three percent chance of winning.”
Despite the underdog status, Hatley said it’s the first time he’s felt comfortable entering a fight. Usually anxious, Hatley said the nerves haven’t showed up as he prepared to meet Pico in a featherweight matchup at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card airs on Paramount and DAZN following prelims on YouTube and DAZN.
“Even though I know he’s going to be a really tough fight, I haven’t felt nervous or worried or anything,” Hatley said. “I haven’t felt that. I’m actually worried that I’m not worried. I know he’s a really, really tough dude – a really, really tough opponent. I know he’s going to be a tough fight but I’m not really worried or nervous or anything.”
Hatley, 23, revealed he’s admired Pico throughout his career. Although Hatley thinks Pico specifically chose him as an opponent, he doesn’t take it as a sign of disrespect.
“I don’t really know how I feel about it,” Hatley said. “Some fighters are weird. Some fighters feel disrespected when a fighter calls them out. I don’t look at it as disrespect. I look at it like he wants to fight me. I don’t look at it as disrespect or anything. I just look at it like he wanted to fight me, so we’re going to fight.”
Since his professional debut, Pico has been in the spotlight. He’s been on both the receiving and giving ends of brutal highlight-reel knockouts. His prospect status has been debated by fans and media. In Hatley’s opinion, Pico was handled incorrectly – but said that’s not his fault, and it doesn’t mean he’s not a top-tier talent.
“As far as actual fighting in MMA, he’s a real good fighter, but I believe his career was done wrong,” Hatley said. “You took this young kid and everybody – Bellator and the whole world – was putting him at such a high pedestal. For me, just fighting a regular dude, that’s a lot of pressure for me. But to not even have a fight and you’re already put on this pedestal. ‘Oh, you’re the next superstar. You’re supposed to this. You’re supposed to do that.’ That’s a huge amount of pressure. I just feel like his career could’ve been run better. The losses he’s had, he shouldn’t have those. I believe his career should have been run better.”
As for a final prediction, Hatley offered up few words.
“I’m knocking him out in the first round or second round,” Hatley said.
Original article: https://mmajunkie.usatoday.com/2020/07/solo-hatley-jr-aaron-pico-career-mishandled-bellator-242/