UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Aaron Pico’s outstanding 2020 in the cage closed out with a picture-perfect overhand right which connected for a sensational knockout of John DeJesus in the second round of their Bellator 252 featherweight fight.

It was the sort of technique that comes from working with world-class striking coach Brandon Gibson of Jackson Wink MMA. To end the year on such a note made for a fitting finish, one in which he immersed himself in the ways of the famed New Mexico gym and put his career back on track.

“I’m very happy team with the team that I have now,” Pico said. “Win, lose, or draw, honestly, Albuquerque’s a great home for me.”

A year ago, the Los Angeles native was 4-3 and already being proclaimed a bust in some corners. But Pico (7-3 MMA, 7-3 BMMA) knew he had to adapt, and Jackson’s turned out to be exactly the change of environment he needed.

“I feel like I’m having fun again and I feel like when I was a kid wrestling, I was so close to my coaches,” he said. “MMA is a little different because of course it’s a business, of course you get paid … but with them, I feel like it’s not a business, it feels like they care for me and love me, and it makes the walk all that much better knowing they’re behind you win, lose, or draw.”

Undoubtedly this feeling came into play during fight week, as DeJesus, according to Pico, tried to play mind games at the host hotel.

“In the beginning of fight week he was just walking around the lobby very cocky, maddogging me and my coaches by himself, going up to my coach and shaking his head like ‘it’s on.’ For me, I just stay in my lane and be professional, and do what I have to do, so it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.”

Pico’s losses came when he was goaded out of his game plan, but he didn’t take the bait this time.

“One thing that (coach) Greg (Jackson) always tells me is to stay in the process. Not too high, not too low, just right in middle. I knew he was going to be taunting me in the fight, so my intstructions in the fight were to just be like (Georges St-Pierre), whatever he does or whatever he says in there, just stay clam. I actually think I broke in there because he said ‘are you tired?’ and I said ‘no.’ He actually pulled me out of the process a little bit. But then I remembered to be like GSP.”

With that, Pico went 3-0 in 2020, with all three wins coming inside two rounds. He can’t make any promises as to what 2021 might bring, but he knows where he stands as of today, so he’s learning to appreciate the moment.

“I don’t really think about the past anymore,” Pico said. “There might be losses in the future I don’t know. But I’m going to take my wins and I’m going to enjoy them as much as I can. I know what its like to lose and I (expletive) hate that feeling. That’s why I’m in the gym working hard every day. I know what it’s like to lose and I don’t want to feel that anymore.”