For the past 32 months, Joshua Pacio has figured in five bouts – with three against Yosuke Saruta, who has become his rival.
And on Friday night, during ONE: Revolution, the ONE Strawweight World Champion put a decisive end to that chapter of his career. He finished Saruta in the very first round of their decider.
Ending the rivalry in an emphatic fashion was particularly important for the 25-year-old Baguio-native.
“For us, it was so satisfying to put on a decisive win last night,” said Pacio, who connected on a solid left followed by at least three unanswered shots to stop his Japanese foil.
“It is a trilogy match and we want it to punctuate that it all ends here.”
Besides proving that he is the better fighter, picking up the third fight was important for Pacio’s growth.
Back in January 19, 2019, Pacio suffered a shock split decision loss to Saruta during Eternal Glory in his very first title defense. Saruta was a replacement fighter after Hayato Suzuki succumbed to an injury.
Three months later, he was able to regain the belt via a fourth round technical knockout win.
Despite wins against Rene Catalan and Alex Silva, Pacio disclosed that it didn’t feel as fulfilling as he hoped it would.
“Bawat laban ko nuon, kahit manalo ako parang nakukulangan ako sa performance ko. Parang may hindi ako naipakita, ‘yun ang feeling ko,” he recalled.
Only one thing would have made Pacio feel complete – another match with Saruta.
“I’ve learned a lot in that span, not just in my skills but also in my confidence,” he shared as Pacio has become more comfortable on the ground during the last two years.
“‘Yan po ang pinakamalaking nag-improve sa akin – my confidence to execute the skills that we’ve been working on.”
Finally conquering Pacio really meant a lot more for him.
Retaining the strap was one thing. Growing by leaps and bounds in those three bouts was something he will cherish for the rest of his career.
“Fighting Saruta three times, that developed my self-confidence and, of course my spiritual life, my relationship with God.”