Spectator to Star: Joshua Pacio Went From Sitting in the Stands to Challenging for World Championships

For the second time in his young career, Filipino strawweight contender Joshua “The Passion” Pacio will be challenging for the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

At ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES on 22 September in Jakarta, Indonesia, Pacio will once again share the cage with reigning strawweight titleholder Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito from Japan to determine who gets the right to call himself the king of ONE Championship’s 56.7-kilogram division.

This will be a rematch of their 2016 encounter for the championship, which saw the challenger Pacio showcasing his mettle as one of the top talents in the division with a solid performance in a losing effort and Naito proving why he was the defending champion with a third-round submission victory.

At that time, it was just Pacio’s third endeavor on the ONE Championship stage, having won his first two bouts in impressive fashion.

Way before he was regarded as one of the Philippines’ best young mixed martial artists, Pacio started out as a fan sitting in the stands, watching and cheering on his mentors in Team Lakay.

“I still can’t believe it,” Pacio claimed. “Before, I was just sitting there, up in the stands, watching my coaches compete. Now, I’m competing alongside them as well.”

The 22-year old Baguio City native began his ONE Championship career in 2016 and has since posted a 6-2 record with notable wins over the likes of Kritsada Kongsrichai, former ONE Strawweight World champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and most recently, Pongsiri Mitsatit.

On September 22nd, he gets another opportunity at the coveted ONE Strawweight World Championship.

Pacio got into the martial arts world through Wush, much like his seniors at Team Lakay, and initially thought that would be the farthest that his journey would take him.

“Never, in a million years, would I have known that getting into Wushu would take me this far.” Pacio explained.

“I thought regional competitions in Wushu and national tournaments would be the final stop for me in terms of martial arts,” he continued.

Training every single day with the kind of talent that calls Team Lakay home will definitely help with one’s motivation.

Seeing his coaches and stars like Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Honorio Banario and Geje Eustaquio represent Team Lakay inside the ONE Championship cage, it lit a fire inside of Pacio.

Now that Folayang, Belingon, Banario and Eustaquio are all in ONE Championship’s record books as world champions, Pacio hopes to be able to follow suit.

“When I saw my coaches go in there and compete in front of thousands of fans, of course it got me excited, it got me motivated,” he stated.

“I had to look at myself and ask if Wushu was really the pinnacle of my martial arts career, or could I do a whole lot more? I got my answer in mixed martial arts,” Pacio added.

With the guidance of Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, Pacio did go on to do a lot more, and he is on track to do even more in his mixed martial arts career.

“I knew in my heart that I could do it. I knew it wasn’t impossible for me to make something out of myself in mixed martial arts, so I pushed and I worked and I kept training hard, until Coach Mark saw that I had potential to make it in this sport, and he told me to keep training, so that’s what I did,” he said.

From the top of the stadium, Pacio’s determination and belief in himself has taken him to the top of ONE Championship’s strawweight ranks.

A win for Pacio in Jakarta will make him Team Lakay’s third current reigning world champion, and it also makes him the stable’s fifth ONE titleholder and the Philippine’s sixth.

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Author: Robert Belen

Robert Belen is a long-time combat sports writer for dSource Boxing. An avid sports fan, he knows no fear nor partiality in his reporting. If you have a problem with him, tell it to his face. (We bid you not.) You can follow him on Twitter @robertbelen

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