Newly-crowned ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio is excited over the prospect of facing hot-streaking veteran Rene “The Challenger” Catalan in an all-Filipino showdown.
The young phenom from Team Lakay is coming off a fourth-round knockout finish over Yosuke “The Ninja” Saruta in highlight-reel fashion, last Friday in the co-main event of ONE: Roots of Honor at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
After Pacio regained the ONE Strawweight World title in dominant fashion, the question arose: who would his next challenger be? And with six straight wins under his belt, the elder Catalan seems to be the obvious answer.
“As a champion, you have to defend your throne,” said Pacio when asked about a possible World title defense against Catalan.
“We’ll take on every challenger, whoever he is. This is a sport, it’s martial arts. It doesn’t matter if you’re Filipino or not, we’ll take you on. “
The 40-year-old Catalan has recently emerged as one of the hottest contenders in ONE Championship. The Iloilo native had a rough start, though, as he dropped two of his first three matches with the promotion.
But as they say – it’s not about the start, it’s about the finish. And in Catalan’s latest outing, he finished in the grandest way possible.
Catalan disposed of former ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito by way of first-round technical knockout at ONE: Reign of Valor last March. It was a feat that no other athlete has achieved, making a strong case for Catalan as the next contender for the title.
“From his last bout against Naito, we’ve seen his improvements. His takedown defense was really impressive,” opined Pacio.
“For me, Rene is really strong. He’s a well-rounded athlete, and like kuya Eduard, he’s been here for a long time.”
The 23-year-old, two-time champion was all praises and cheers for Catalan – who is 17 years his senior – especially with how Catalan scaled the division’s summit. But with the super match looming, he’s confident that he will pull off a win against his countryman.
“If this match (is next), I see the fight ending in the third round via TKO.”