Joshua “The Passion” Pacio (12-2) is preparing for the stiffest test of his mixed martial arts career.
The Filipino is scheduled to challenge ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito (13-1) for the belt at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES, which emanates from the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia on Saturday, 22 September.
In preparation of this main-event rematch, the 22-year-old is training with some of the world’s best athletes at Team Lakay, which is widely considered to be Asia’s top martial arts camp.
The collective from Baguio City, Philippines is a close-knit group, and after spending every day training with the young Pacio, its stars explain why they have unwavering confidence in their teammate.
“Joshua is a diligent kid who has chased his dreams and built his career with his bare hands. Everything he has achieved today has come through hard work and dedication. You do not see that in many kids in their 20s today. It is rare.
“The focus he has on achieving his goals is inspiring. The great thing is that he is young, and he has his whole life ahead of him. Being this good at what he does so early – it is scary to think how good he will be in the next five years.
“I am sure coach Mark (Sangiao, head coach of Team Lakay) is putting together a tremendous game plan for him going into the Naito rematch. As laser-focused as Joshua is, and as determined as he is, I would not be surprised to see him get a finish this time around. Victory is just around the corner.”
“Joshua is an amazing friend and teammate. He is like a younger brother to me.
“The best thing about him is that he is truly humble, and he is willing to learn from everyone. He embodies the true attributes of martial arts. What I love most about this kid is that he is respectful at all times, and never fails to show humility despite what he has already achieved.
“Having been able to challenge for the title at 20, it came as a surprise, and he handled it well. He took the experience, and absorbed what he needed from it. Now, the rematch is happening because he worked hard for it. Joshua willed this title shot into existence, and now he is staring destiny in the face.
“With Joshua’s tools, he can beat Naito this time around and claim the gold, but he has to go in there with a good strategy. Naito is very slick and very smart. I am sure our team has a great game plan ready.”
“Joshua is my little brother. He is always fun to hang out with. He is always cracking jokes, and he makes any situation better. It has always been good to train with him.
“To see Joshua grow as a martial artist has been a privilege. From witnessing his skills early on – all that potential – and then to see him work so hard to improve, it is inspiring.
“The thing I share with Joshua – and I can relate with – is that we both want to put on a show every time we perform. In any fight he is in, he wants to make the fans happy.
“If he keeps working hard, maintains his discipline, and remains humble, the sky is the limit for Joshua. I think this time around, he is going to beat Naito by knockout.”
“He is just a really hard-working kid. Anywhere he is in the world, he is always training and always working hard. It does not matter whether he has a fight scheduled or not – he has his dream in focus at all times. I am lucky to have him as a friend and as a training partner.
“The last time he fought Naito, he was not ready for it. He came into the promotion around the same time as me, and then, within a few months, he already had a title shot. Now, his skills are much tighter, and his game is much more fluid. He is a completely different martial artist now compared to two years ago. He is more mature, and he knows what he wants.
“I have worked a lot with Joshua – more than I have any other training partner. Joshua has supported me throughout my career, as much as I have supported him. I truly consider him a brother, and whenever we are together, there is never any dull moment. We love to laugh and tell jokes, and play around like a couple of kids.”
“Joshua Pacio is admired by his teammates because of his laid back and approachable personality outside of the cage, but bring him into the battleground, and you unleash the hungry beast.
“There are not many 22-year-olds as hardworking as Joshua. He is a great role model for anyone, even outside of martial arts. Joshua works extremely hard to reach his dreams, and he is very disciplined. Despite how he looks on the outside, where it appears he is always laughing and smiling, Joshua is a determined professional all the way.
“This rematch will mark the toughest test in his young career thus far. He is so hungry to achieve victory, and I think this is what will lead him to the title. We are coming in with a sound game plan, and we have drilled this over and over. I fully expect victory on our side this 22 September.”