After a career-defining split decision win over former world champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke in March, Pacio was then submitted by undefeated Japanese champion Hayato Suzuki in the first round of their recent August clash.
The lessons he has learned since that heartbreaking loss, however, promise to take Pacio’s career to the next level.
“After my bout against Suzuki, I was so disappointed in myself, because I was not able to showcase all the months of hard work I put into training. But although I did not get the victory, it made me realize just how much more I had to improve so that I can become a better martial artist,” the 21-year-old Filipino explains.
“I realized that there are a lot of holes in my game, and that the only way to get better is to recognize my weaknesses.”
Pacio is scheduled to return to the ONE Championship cage this coming Friday, 10 November. He will take on fellow former world title challenger Roy “The Dominator” Doliguez (7-4) in an all-Filipino affair at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
The 35-year-old Doliguez is a former professional boxing champion who possesses a breadth of experience across various combat sports. He is a savvy veteran, and someone that Pacio has watched ever since he started his own martial arts career.
“Roy Doliguez is one of the guys I grew up watching even during my amateur days, so I have a lot of respect for him. He is a fellow Filipino warrior, so I know what he is capable of, and I know how big his heart is,” Pacio says.
“Doliguez even competed against one of our teammates in another promotion. I have the utmost respect for him because he is a veteran in combat sports and his experience is an asset. But I will prove to him and to the world that I belong in this elite group, even if my career is still young.”
“The Dominator,” who knocked out Brazil’s Yago Bryan last September in a thrilling comeback, will look to test Pacio’s development as a young martial artist. The former boxer’s biggest asset is, of course, his experience. But “The Passion” maintains it is not something he is too particularly worried about.
“Doliguez is a former boxing champion, and we saw how dangerous he could be when he knocked out Yago Bryan in his last bout. I am definitely not taking him lightly by any means,” he states. “But I have also faced some of the best strikers, like former world champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, so it is nothing new to me.”
When “The Passion” enters the cage this Friday night, he will aim to erase the sting of having lost two of his last three bouts after a perfect 8-0 start.
The Team Lakay standout joined the promotion in early 2016, and instantly became one of the top talents in Asia when he won his first two bouts in ONE. The impressive showings were enough to earn him a shot at the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
In a solid showing, Pacio surprised the crowd with an impressive performance, dominating reigning champion Naito with his wushu for the majority of the bout. But midway through the third round, a brief mental lapse and a costly mistake from the Filipino showed Naito an opening for the rear-naked choke, and the victory was snatched from right underneath him.
This time however, Pacio says the perfect strategy will get him the win.
“My game plan will be the key in this matchup, and I believe we have the perfect strategy to beat him. I fully expect to be victorious,” says a confident Pacio, who talks briefly about his training at Team Lakay.
“In the cage, anything can happen, so we always have to be prepared. We train in all styles, be it wushu, striking, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and many others. It has to all come together. A sound game plan is also key to bringing everything together seamlessly.”