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Mixed Martial Arts

Olympic coach warns Jarred Brooks to never underestimate Joshua Pacio’s wrestling

Jarred Brooks has been heard on numerous occasions saying he plans to “expose” Joshua Pacio, and he intends to do that by using his impeccable ground game – an aspect of mixed martial arts (MMA) that used to be a bane to members of Team Lakay.

However, an Iranian Olympic wrestling coach feels that Brooks is biting off more than he can chew as the outspoken American is set to challenge the Filipino champion for his coveted strawweight title in the main event of ONE 164, which takes place at the 20,000-seater SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Metro Manila on Saturday.

Ali Heydarabadi, a native of Tehran, Iran who now resides in Dasmariñas, Cavite, knows Pacio and his stablemates all too well as he played an integral role in the development of Team Lakay’s grappling at a time when the group’s aptitude on the mat had been on the receiving end of heavy criticism.

Heydarabadi first came on board in 2013, and in one of his frequent trips to La Trinidad, Benguet to oversee the squad’s wrestling training, he met a young Pacio, who had already been turning heads as a blue-chip prospect at the time.

After a couple of sessions with Pacio, Heydarabadi knew that Team Lakay lynchpin Mark Sangiao had a diamond in the rough on his roster of talents.

“Joshua Pacio is a special fighter. I knew the kid for a long time, and I knew that one day he would be at the top of his game,” the Iranian told Tiebreaker Times.

What Heydarabadi thought of Pacio came into existence a few years later as the 26-year-old is now considered one of the most dominant strawweights in the world right now and perhaps the best pound-for-pound Filipino mixed martial artist today.

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This weekend, Pacio faces the most difficult test in his professional career to date as he shares the cage with a man who has basically seen it all in the form of Brooks.

While a lot of fans and experts are wary of Pacio’s chances against Brooks, especially when the fight goes to the ground, Heydarabadi believes that the Filipino is more than capable of handling the American’s bread and butter.

“Joshua is a good wrestler. This is MMA. You don’t need to be an Olympic champion of any martial art just to win a bout in this sport. In MMA, you just have to be well-rounded,” Heydarabadi shared.

“He has been working on his wrestling and grappling with me for years. Look at the opposition he fought in the past, most of them have either wrestling or jiu-jitsu backgrounds. Joshua is ready.”

Heydarabadi spent the early part of this year at the Team Lakay headquarters, and one of the fighters who had trained under his watchful eyes was Pacio.

“For all the fights, we practice both takedown and takedown defense and for this fight, it is no different. We did the same thing,” he divulged. “Joshua is a great champion. I’m confident that he will be able to keep up.”

It’s safe to say that Pacio has a point to prove on Saturday, but a victory for “The Passion” at ONE 164 will likewise add a feather to the cap of Heydarabadi as a wrestling coach.

“I know a win here is important for Joshua, but his victory will also mean a great deal for my career as a wrestling coach,” he stated.

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When asked for a prediction, Heydarabadi kept it short and simple:

“I’m 100 percent sure that Joshua Pacio will remain as champion.”

Written By

Nissi Icasiano has been immersed in the sports industry since 2013, covering the biggest sports events in both domestic and overseas. He has worked as a reporter and a contributing writer for several media outlets/networks such as Rappler, ABS-CBN,,, The Phnom Penh Post, Asian MMA, The Fight Nation and South China Morning Post. In 2017, he started a career as a Combat Sports Analyst for television and radio, appearing on various news shows for ABS-CBN, GMA, TV5 and Radyo Pilipinas. He is also Business World's resident fight analyst.

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