Joshua “The Passion” Pacio (12-2) has received the surprise of his life.
Last month, the man from Baguio City, Philippines was awarded a second chance to win a World Title, and earn redemption against the man who ruined his spotless record nearly two years ago. This is a rare opportunity, and he plans to make the most of it.
The blockbuster event takes place at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, and Pacio expects to leave the cage as the weight class’ new — and youngest — king.
“I never expected to be competing for the title again so soon, so this news came to me out of nowhere,” the 22-year-old says.
“There is so much talent in my division, and I know a lot of guys are gunning for the throne, but I have been preparing for this ever since I lost the first time around, so I am not going to let this opportunity go to waste.”
The pair initially met at ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS in Yangon, Myanmar, in October 2016, and Pacio looked like he was on his way to pulling off the upset in the first two rounds. He stuffed most of the Japanese grappler’s takedown attempts, and lit him up with his extraordinary striking.
Naito remained persistent with his grappling attack, however, and in the third round, he quickly took “The Passion” to the ground, and submitted him with a rear-naked choke to retain the gold.
It was the Filipino stalwart’s first professional defeat, but the setback ultimately moved him forward, as it revealed areas in his game that he needed to strengthen.
“I learned a lot of things from the first bout. I have a lot more patience now, and I let the fight unfold instead of forcing the issue. Also, I am much more confident in my skills now,” Pacio says.
“I was so young and inexperienced. Now, I am a completely different fighter, and I think I am going to surprise him a little bit. I know he is preparing for the Joshua Pacio he knows, but I think I can shock him because I am a much different fighter this time around.”
Ever since that loss, Pacio has made drastic improvements, and it has shown in his most recent performances.
This past January, the wushu prodigy submitted China’s Lan Ming Qiang via rear-naked choke in the opening round of their strawweight clash at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES.
He followed that up with yet another first-round submission victory at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in July. This time, he used an innovative hold that he dubbed “The Passion Lock,” to tap out unbeaten Thai warrior Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit.
Pacio believes his revamped skill set – especially his grappling – will be the difference-maker in his forthcoming rematch with Naito.
“My striking is so much better now, and my grappling is at a very high level. I am intent on mixing it up in this rematch, and giving him different looks,” he says.
“In the first fight, I avoided going down to the ground at all costs. This time, I am much more comfortable on the mat, and more experienced. I still expect a difficult challenge. Naito is a great wrestler and grappler, after all – but now, so am I.”
He would love nothing more than to bring another belt to the Baguio City camp, as well as achieve his dream of reaching the pinnacle of mixed martial arts.
“Winning that title means everything to me,” he says.
“I have worked so hard over the past couple of years. I have been behind my team’s success, with kuya (brother) Geje and kuya Kevin winning their World Titles.
“Now, it is my time. Hard work pays off. All the sacrifices and all the time I have put into this career – it all comes down to this. Winning this bout will be the next chapter of my career. To become champion would be a dream come true.”
Jakarta | 22 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast