by Eric Dehm
Guess who’s headed back to the MMA cage for the first time in more than a year? That’s right, Marine Corps vet and Purple Heart recipient Shane “War Rhino” Kruchten — newly signed to Bellator MMA — returns to action next month.
As first reported by vet-owned MyMMAnews.com, Kruchten is scheduled to take on vaunted prospect Aaron Pico to kick off the main card of Bellator’s January 20 fight card at The Forum in Inglewood, CA — headlined by a Welterweight title fight between Douglas Lima and Rory MacDonald.
The fights will be televised on The Paramount Network (Currently known as Spike TV, with a rebranding scheduled for January 18).
Kruchten, fighting out of San Diego’s 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, heads into the fight with a record of 12-3, with 11 wins in his last 12 contests.
His most recent fight in December of 2016 was a unanimous decision victory over fellow Marine Jeremy Mahon under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden at WSOF 34. Despite the layoff, Kruchten says talk of injuries keeping him from fighting was overblown, and he’s not worried about “ring rust.”
“Not even a little bit,” Kruchten tells ConnectingVets.com. “I’ve been active the whole time but unable to compete because of my former employer not having enough fights to keep fighters busy.”
That won’t be a problem with Bellator, who had an opponent lined up for Kruchten immediately in Pico, labeled a “can’t miss” MMA prospect by many prior to his Bellator (and pro MMA) debut.
Pico entered into Bellator’s Lightweight (155lb) division with a ton of hype, but lost his first fight in shocking fashion via submission just 24 seconds into the first round. For his next fight he dropped down to the Featherweight division (145 lb) and bounced back in a big way, earning his first win with a devastating first round knockout in September.
Pico is certainly a dangerous opponent, one Kruchten says he’s had his eye on for awhile.
“I respect Aaron,” Kruchten says. “I’ve known his name in the wrestling world for years. Been a fan of his since he entered MMA too… I think it’s a good matchup and I’m eager to see our styles against one another.”
When the fight takes place, Kruchten will be joined, as always, by his brothers-in-arms from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Kruchten has tattooed the names of the 19 Marines in his unit who made the ultimate sacrifice during their deployment to Iraq and is proud to be bringing them along to a bigger stage.
“Like I’ve always said, they have my six,” Kruchten says. “I’m beyond honored to now carry my brothers with me on national TV and let people view the names on the Paramount Network. I know my brothers are and will be with me. People will see, freedom isn’t Free.”