To become a ONE World Champion is an achievement few athletes accomplish during their professional careers but earning that coveted title and keeping that title are two entirely different things.
Joshua “The Passion” Pacio, wrote his name in the history books last September when he defeated Yoshitaka Naito to capture the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
Pacio will now attempt to do what neither Natio or the man Natio took the belt off of Alex Silva could do, and that is to mount a successful defense of the title he has only recently claimed.
“The Passion” is set to have his first defense on 19 January at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY in Jakarta Indonesia against the highly-rated Japanese athlete Yosuke Saruta.
Saruta is a relative newcomer to the ONE roster but made an instant impact when he defeated Silva via unanimous decision in December at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS.
The 31-year-old former Shooto World Champion is not only a skilled grappler, he also packs lethal right hand, capable of sending his opponents to sleep before they are even aware they have been hit.
None of this is news to Pacio, and the 22-year-old is aware of the fact that there will be no room for errors when the cage doors close on 19 January.
“I’m coming into this fight, as usual, in the best shape of my life,” Pacio said recently to onefc.com.
“The way I fight, my style is very fast-paced with constant movement. To be able to maintain my pace, I have to be in great physical condition. We have worked extensively on my conditioning, and I’m prepared for a five-round war.
“Of course, we still have a solid game plan in place, and that’s going to be a huge key to victory. I have the best team behind me and the best coach.
“As long as we put our heads together, and I follow my coach’s instructions, I’m confident I can retain the title and bring home another golden strap to Baguio City.”
A championship bout is stressful enough, but for Pacio, who trains out of Team Lakay there will be the added pressure of being the first of Team Lakay’s four ONE World Champions to stage a successful title defense in 2019.
Alongside Pacio, the Baguio City gym is also home to ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje Eustaquio, ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin Belingon, and ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang.
“The Passion” will no doubt be wanting to start Team Lakay’s year on the right track but there is no telling how the pressure will impact his mindset leading up to the contest.
However, from recent interviews, it would appear that the Filipino is relishing the extra scrutiny that comes with being a World Champion.
“This is my chance to prove that I deserve the golden strap. It belongs here in the Philippines. I will defend it with faith and hard work,” Pacio said,
“That goes for the rest of the team. Our dedication and love for this sport allows us to do amazing things. We find ways to train through anything. Even though we don’t have fancy gym equipment, or the latest in technology, or even nutritionists, we still manage to succeed with good old fashioned hard work.
“We research, study, and learn. We adapt, and we apply. I am so proud to be a part of Team Lakay and to represent my country on the global stage of ONE Championship. I will do everything I can to keep the title.”
The first ONE Championship main event of 2019 is shaping up to be a possible classic encounter between two determined and highly-focused competitors, and if this is what the year has in store for ONE fans, it will definitely be a memorable one.