Joshua “The Passion” Pacio may be one of the youngest strawweights in ONE Championship, but he possesses experience beyond his years, and continues progressing at a rapid pace.
In January, the 22-year-old Filipino demolished Lan Ming Qiang in the first round of their co-main event clash at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES. Pacio took some shots before taking down the Chinese sanda champion, and smoothly transitioned to submit his adversary via rear-naked choke.
Pacio, well-known for his wushu striking, demonstrated superb ground expertise, and made it look effortless. The Team Lakay standout is a quick study, and between his calm demeanor and overt politeness, he has all the makings of being the Philippines’ next martial arts superstar.
In this exclusive interview, he speaks about what has motivated his startling progression, what lies next in his future, and more.
ONE Championship: You defeated Lan Ming Qiang by rear-naked choke last month, something which you predicted. What did you want to prove in that bout?
Joshua Pacio: I said I was going to submit him, and I did. That was the game plan all along. It is what I had worked on for two months before that bout. I wanted to prove to the world that our ground game is as capable as any.
At Team Lakay, we just like to help each other improve and get better. As a member of the team, that is all we could ever really hope for. When we learn something new, we make it a point to teach others what we know. This way, we rise as a team.
Lan Ming Qiang was an incredible threat on the feet. I could feel his power. But this is martial arts, and you can never tell what will happen inside the cage. The best that you can do is prepare for every situation, and deal with problems as they present themselves. For me, I saw my opening, took advantage of it, and the rest is history.
ONE: Team Lakay seem to be improving in regards to grappling. How has that changed in recent years?
JP: Like always, we are focused on drilling our techniques, especially in grappling. Grappling is super tricky because it really takes hours of repetition and adaptation to get techniques correct. If we focused just on grappling alone, there is no doubt we will improve our grappling skills. But this sport is a mix of all styles, so to keep things balanced we have to keep training our striking, our wrestling, and every skill necessary to be successful.
Of course, we know we have a lot to improve on with our grappling, so we place extra time in this area to polish our skills. I think the results have shown over the past couple of years, and the team has gotten a whole lot better and continues to get better with each bout.
This career is very difficult because we have to always keep up with the pace and advancement. Every day, our opponents are out there training and getting better. There is no time for us to rest. We have to keep working hard on our skills too.
ONE: You have been progressing quickly as a grappler. What do you chalk that up to?
JP: I know, given my past losses, that grappling was the weakest part of my game. I understood that, and that is why I have placed great emphasis on improving this area. I have put in extra effort to make sure that I am getting the proper training in the grappling department.
Coach Mark [Sangiao] told me to train harder, and to focus on repetition and drilling, which is what I focused a lot of my energy in training for the past few months. We would also sometimes go down to Manila, which is four hours away, to train under coach John Baylon.
At the moment, I feel very comfortable on the ground. I am constantly grappling with my teammates, namely Danny [Kingad], Honorio [Banario], Geje [Eustaquio], and Eduard [Folayang]. I think this group of guys is much stronger than any of my opponents so far, so I am extremely confident in the training and the sparring that I am getting.
I feel like grappling is the missing piece of the puzzle. Once we are able to take our grappling to the next level, I think it will be very hard for opponents to handle Team Lakay. We are almost there. [If we] push harder and train harder, then we can achieve this. I believe in the team, I believe in coach, and I believe in myself.
If we work hard enough, I would not be surprised if we have more world champions this year.
ONE: What else do you feel you have to work on?
JP: One thing I believe I’m lacking in is confidence, so that is something I have been working on since the loss to [Yoshitaka] Naito [in October 2016]. I need to be more confident in my abilities, and I need to constantly assess my weaknesses so I know what to work on.
The two losses in my career, after each of them, my friends and family were there to support me and encourage me even more. They have never stopped believing that, one day, I will be a world champion. I will soon make them proud.
ONE: Who would you want to face in the ONE cage next?
JP: This is not for me to decide. Whether it is Pongsiri Mitstatit, it is all up to ONE. But of course, I welcome all challenges and will never back down. Like I have told everyone, I signed with ONE Championship to give fans the best show that I can.
It is up to the promotion [to decide] who is next. As for me, I will just continue to train hard every single day and get better. Soon, the world title will be mine. In due time, I will achieve my goal.