20-year-old Team Lakay fighter Joshua Pacio is up for the biggest opportunity of his career.
With an immaculate 8-0 record, the La Trinidad, Benguet native will challenge for the ONE Strawweight belt against current champion Yoshitaka Naito this Friday in the main event of ONE Championship: State of Warriors in Myanmar.
Pacio is fresh from a submission victory over Kristada Kongsrichai in ONE’s first event in Macau, China.
The slithery striker weathered an early barrage of takedown attempts and strikes to secure a takedown late in the first down, pass the Thai’s guard, and lock in a rear naked choke following a barrage of punches.
Heading into the first title fight of his career, Pacio knows he will need to unleash his best performance yet.
“Confident ako… Maraming nagsasabi na bata pa ako para sa title fight na ‘yun pero hindi ko iniisip ‘yun. Ang iniisip ko lang is chance na ‘to and big opportunity na ‘to para sa akin so grinab ko na,” Pacio told a swarm of reporters in ONE’s open workout, yesterday at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall.
“Nasanay ako sa three round fight so ang championship is a five-round fight.
“Pinagbutihan namin ang cardio ko at strengthening. Pinaghandaan din namin ang ground game at wrestling defense kasi ‘yun ang nakikita naming advantage ng kalaban,” he continued.
A former Shootoo champion, Naito looks to defend his belt for the first time after submitting Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke last May 27 in the latter’s home territory in Bangkok, Thailand.
Facing another undefeated foe, Pacio will look to exploit all of his advantages to bring home a second ONE belt to the Philippines. Although his style is prone to quick finishes, Pacio says he’s comfortable with however the match will unfold.
“Sa tingin ko ang advantage natin is sa striking. Alam naman natin na ang plano ng kalaban is pilitin na dalhin ako sa ground,” he expressed.
“Hindi naman ako nape-pressure kung hindi ko matatapos sa knockout o submission ‘yung laban. Basta ang importante is manalo and makuha ‘yung belt.”
At a tender age of 20, Pacio is looked upon as the future of local MMA. While people see his potential, Pacio laments the extraordinary amount of hard work needed to reach that level.
“Nakikita nila ‘yung potential pero mahirap makarating sa stage na ‘to. It takes years of training and dedication. Hopefully, masuklian ang hard work natin.”