Joshua “The Passion” Pacio is still young, but he has already accomplished so much in his professional mixed martial arts career.
The 22-year-old Team Lakay standout has posted victories over some of the biggest names in the strawweight division, and even challenged Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito for the ONE Strawweight World Title in October 2016. However, one victory stands out for the Filipino superstar.
“When that bout was announced, I was excited for it,” Pacio recollects.
“It is not every day you get to trade strikes with a living legend. Dejdamrong is very well known in Muay Thai, and it was an honor for me to compete against him.”
This presented a unique clash, as Pacio’s famed wushu was put to the test against his opponent’s world-class Muay Thai.
Needless to say, the contest did not disappoint.
Pacio, bouncing on the balls of his feet, employed a counter-striking strategy as Dejdamrong pressed forward. Within 90 seconds, he had grounded the Thai legend and unloaded punches from inside his guard.
In round two, the Filipino stuck with the same game plan. He quickly caught one of his rival’s roundhouse kicks, landed a massive takedown, and worked for a kimura. When that failed, he continued to throw punches and elbows.
Everything changed in the final round.
Dejdamrong stuffed his takedown attempts, kept the match upright, and proceeded to exchange thunderous punches – some of which rocked “The Passion.”
“Exchanging blows with him was difficult, because he had a lot of power,” the Team Lakay warrior explains.
“I was even surprised myself that I was still standing after some heated exchanges, but that is the kind of fight I like. It was an enjoyable experience for me.”
After three grueling rounds, Pacio had done just enough to earn a razor-thin split decision victory.
One of the biggest lessons the Filipino learned from the experience was how to deal with pressure – both physically and mentally – which he has carried into battle ever since.
“I learned how to deal with a guy who comes forward, and applies a lot of pressure,” he says.
“He was pressuring me all throughout the fight, and I had no choice but to push back.
“If your mind is weak, you will succumb to the pressure. I was able to keep a cool head in there, and that is why I was able to give him my best.”
When Pacio returned home to Baguio City, Philippines, he celebrated the victory with his family.
They were all very proud of him – especially his uncle, who had introduced the youngster to martial arts when he was 10. His uncle had extensively followed Dejdamrong’s Muay Thai career, and he was thrilled with his nephew’s achievement.
“He was a very big Dejdamrong fan,” Pacio reveals. “He was very proud of what I had accomplished, and that meant a lot to me.”
Wherever the Filipino’s career takes him, this victory will forever stand out as his favorite.
This bout showed him the pathway to becoming a legend himself, and it made him realize the price of greatness.
“For me, I had to show him the true Joshua Pacio,” he says.
“I could not fold or give up. To give a legend like that the respect he deserves, he needed to see my best performance, and that is what I gave him.”