ONE Strawweight World Championship Joshua Pacio will attempt to do what previous strawweight champions Yoshitaka Natio or the man Natio took the belt off of Alex Silva could not do. And that is to mount a successful defense of the title.
“The Passion” is set to have his first defense on January 19 at ONE: Eternal Glory in Jakarta Indonesia against the highly-rated Japanese athlete Yosuke Saruta.
Saruta is a relative newcomer to the ONE roster but made an instant impact when he defeated Silva via unanimous decision in December at ONE: Destiny of Champions.
The 31-year-old former Shooto World Champion is not only a skilled grappler, he also packs lethal right hand, capable of sending his opponents to sleep before they are even aware they have been hit.
None of this is news to Pacio, and the 22-year-old is aware of the fact that there will be no room for errors when the cage doors close during his title defense.
“I’m coming into this fight, as usual, in the best shape of my life,” Pacio said.
“The way I fight, my style is very fast-paced with constant movement. To be able to maintain my pace, I have to be in great physical condition. We have worked extensively on my conditioning, and I’m prepared for a five-round war.
“Of course, we still have a solid game plan in place, and that’s going to be a huge key to victory. I have the best team behind me and the best coach.
“As long as we put our heads together, and I follow my coach’s instructions, I’m confident I can retain the title and bring home another golden strap to Baguio City.”
A championship bout is stressful enough, but for Pacio, who trains out of Team Lakay there will be the added pressure of being the first of Team Lakay’s four ONE World Champions to stage a successful title defense in 2019.
Alongside Pacio, the Baguio City gym is also home to ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje Eustaquio, ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin Belingon, and ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang.
“The Passion” will no doubt want to start Team Lakay’s year on the right track but there is no telling how the pressure will impact his mind leading up to the contest.
However, from recent interviews, it would appear that the Filipino is relishing the extra scrutiny that comes with being a world champion.
“This is my chance to prove that I deserve the golden strap. It belongs here in the Philippines. I will defend it with faith and hard work,” Pacio said,
“That goes for the rest of the team. Our dedication and love for this sport allows us to do amazing things. We find ways to train through anything. Even though we don’t have fancy gym equipment, or the latest in technology, or even nutritionists, we still manage to succeed with good old fashioned hard work.
“We research, study, and learn. We adapt, and we apply. I am so proud to be a part of Team Lakay and to represent my country on the global stage of ONE Championship. I will do everything I can to keep the title,” said Pacio.