Joshua “The Passion” Pacio has achieved his dream by becoming ONE Strawweight World Champion, but his hard work has only just begun.
The 23-year-old – who will defend the belt against Alex “Little Rock” Silva at ONE: FIRE AND FURY – refuses to rest on his laurels and is determined to be a role model by working harder than ever to stay on top.
Plus, he knows he has to continue to evolve to stay one step ahead of the contenders that will be coming to knock him off his perch – beginning next Friday, 31 January in Manila, Philippines.
“I’ve defended my belt, I’m really a champion now, but, you know, the work doesn’t end there,” he says.
“There are still a lot of top-caliber challengers and every athlete levels up, so I think I need to level up, and I think I still need to raise my game to stay a champion.
“This is definitely not the end. I want to continue defending [the belt] as long as I can, and of course, in every fight, there will be a different Joshua Pacio.”
One of the main reasons Pacio has this mindset is to inspire young men and women just like him who come from humble beginnings and are striving for success – in martial arts or not – to help them prosper in life.
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“To become a champion is like to inspire the next generation because a lot of people look up to you,” he adds.
“A lot of people are watching you, so, I think I need to set an example, right? And, to work hard because you don’t just stumble upon this. At the age of 23, yes, I am a champion, but it’s 10 to 12 years in the making.
“They keep saying, ‘You are so young, and yet you’re already a champion,’ but they don’t see the years of hard work. You need to invest years to train and become a champion.
“When you become a champion, it definitely does not end there. The hard work that you put in, you now need to double it to remain a champion.”
All of that is easier said than done, especially in the strawweight division where the fierce competition meant there was not a single World Title defense for more than three years.
However, Pacio practiced what he preaches and bucked that trend by solidifying his reign in November with a second-round submission of Rene “The Challenger” Catalan to cap the most dominant performance seen in his weight class’ World Championship bouts.
Though he was rightly proud of his achievement, “The Passion” is quick to insist that his success is not just because of his efforts. The way he sees it, he would not be where he is without his coaches and training partners pushing him every day at Team Lakay.
“For me personally, we are all champions, this belt belongs to us. If they weren’t there with me, I wouldn’t have been a champion,” he explains.
“You see, they are the ones helping me in training. In sparring, they all beat me up so that I can stay a champion. Yeah, this is our belt.”
Ahead of his bout with Silva, Pacio says he has “tripled his time” with his teammates to hone his skills and make sure he can live up to his fans’ expectations.
Because of that, he says – despite being the figurehead of ONE: FIRE AND FURY in the main event in front of his home fans at the Mall Of Asia Arena – he is not feeling any pressure.
He has done the hard work to make sure his hand is raised at the end of the night.
“As far as I’m concerned, as far as my team is concerned, as long as I see that I am leveling up in every fight, I think, it will all fall into place,” Pacio says.
“If I level up in training, and in every fight, I think I can defend my belt and stay as a champion.”