Joshua Pacio still has flashbacks of reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka Naito dealing him—then 22 years old—his first loss as a professional mixed martial artist in 2016. It was just the third match of his young career and Naito's first title defense.
On Saturday at the main card of the ONE: Conquest of Heroes in Indonesia, Pacio will get a shot not only at redemption against his past tormentor, but also the same belt that eluded him two years ago. And while he has certainly gotten better since their first meeting, the same can also be said about his 34-year-old rival.
When asked about what he will bring to the table in their rematch, he knows that "confidence" is key. Pacio recalls, "Nung last fight
Credit his drastic improvement to Team Lakay, which has provided him with the best training partners that a fighter could ever ask for. From an opponent's favorite takedown to all his habits inside the ring,
Coach Mark Sangiao is a witness to his up-and-coming ward's development, saying, "Masyado siyang hilaw para sa championship nung huli. At least nung natalo siya, nalaman natin kung ano talaga yung kulang sa kanya. Mas makikita nila yung mas mature and technical na Joshua Pacio. Ngayon ang right time para kunin niya yung belt."
The man, whose moniker is "The Passion," may appear carefree and cool, but don't be fooled: he is out to exact revenge and dethrone the champ.
"Dito sa laban na to, hindi pwedeng fancy. Imi-mix ko lang—striking, wrestling, or grappling," Pacio explains. "Kasi mahirap, alam naman natin na magte-takedown talaga yung kalaban, pipilitin niya kong ibaba. Ipapakita ko na kumpleto talaga yung MMA sa Pilipinas. Hindi lang tayo nagko-concentrate sa isang bagay, we have this whole package."
ONE: Conquest of Heroes goes down on September 22 at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia