There has never been a bigger bout between two Filipinos in mixed martial arts history than the main event at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE.
The contest will take place in the capital city of Manila at the Mall Of Asia Arena, where a packed house will watch on while millions of people around the country tune in to see representatives of the two leading Pinoy teams.
“I’m happy with this match-up. It only goes to show how mixed martial arts in the Philippines continues to grow,” Pacio says.
“For me, it’s a big privilege to be a part of this historic face-off, as two Filipinos meet each other for the World Title – and it’s against a decorated veteran. I’m also happy to fight here in the Philippines again.”
The Team Lakay star has emerged as his division’s undisputed number one in the past year with a pair of impressive wins in World Title encounters, but his next opponent could offer his biggest test yet.
The driving force behind Catalan Fighting Systems (CFS) is one of his country‘s most decorated wushu competitors – his honors include two World Titles and an Asian Games gold medal – and he has been exceptional in the Circle since he adjusted to his new sport.
Though the 40-year-old went winless in his first three ONE bouts, he has won six on the spin since then – including a first-round TKO of former World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, who Pacio needed five rounds to defeat – to earn his shot at the gold.
“The Passion” watched that match closely and recognizes what he will be up against.
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“I think we’re evenly matched. Kuya Rene’s sanda background is his bread and butter, while he has also improved a lot in his wrestling and grappling,” he says.
“I was impressed with what he did with Naito. He stopped his takedowns and won via stoppage. We’ve seen how he’s improved, and he’s on a six-fight winning streak. He’s certainly [a worthy challenger].”
Despite the way he became the top contender, there were some doubts about whether Catalan would face one of his compatriots for the belt.
It took some extra motivation from some naysayers to fire him up to take on the challenge, but Pacio never had any hesitation about accepting this contest.
The 23-year-old rival from Baguio City just wants to face the top athletes out there to cement his status as the world’s best. That means “The Challenger” is in his firing line, but he has no ill will toward him whatsoever.
“I’ve been reading comments about how sad it is being a Pinoy versus Pinoy match, but this is just sports. In the end, you can expect respect between us,” he says.
“I respect Rene Catalan. [CFS] are the pioneers. They represented the country countless times. They were already there when I hadn’t even learned how to punch.
“But, this is mixed martial arts and I have to prove that I deserve the belt, so I’ll do everything to retain my World Title.”
“The Passion” is also determined to prove himself because of the premature end to his first reign with the belt at the start of this year.
In January, he lost his first defense in a close fight against Yosuke “The Ninja” Saruta. Though he redeemed himself in the rematch with a win via one of the greatest knockouts ever seen in the Circle, he still feels like he has a point to prove.
That is why he has taken his intense training to a new level to make sure he does not suffer the same fate twice.
“I’m really happy to be given a chance to defend this belt,” he says.
“The last time, I wasn’t so fortunate and I lost it. This time I will do everything to successfully defend it and to enter 2020 with strong momentum.
“I’ve really stepped-up on my training for this match, and I’ll make sure to show it on 8 November, and make sure I go home still a World Champion.
“One thing is for sure, this is the best you’ll see of me. An upgrade, a real confident athlete who believes in himself.”