One can only imagine how pumped Joshua “The Passion” Pacio is.
The reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion finally marks his return inside the ONE Circle at ONE: REVOLUTION on September 24 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and he’s doing that against an opponent he has long asked for.
Pacio gets his long awaited trilogy match against fierce rival Yosuke “The Ninja” Saruta as they bookend their trifecta of fights and prove who truly is the king of the strawweights.
And rightfully so, the 25-year-old World Champion is grinning from ear to ear.
“I’m so fired up to get back inside the ONE Circle. It’s been a year and a half since my last outing and I really miss the feeling of being inside that Circle and defending the belt,” he said.
“Adding to my excitement is that my wish was granted, with Saruta topping the contender’s list and he really is deserving to face me again for the third time.”
Saruta has indeed staked his claim to get another go-round with Pacio as the Japanese currently is the no. 1 ranked challenger in the ONE Athlete Rankings.
It also helps that he has an unfinished business with Pacio, with the two fighters splitting their first two fights.
Saruta came out of nowhere and took the ONE Strawweight World Championship from Pacio in a stunning split decision win at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY in January 2019.
Roughly three months later, Pacio redeemed himself in emphatic fashion, catching Saruta with a brutal knee to the head to score the fourth round knockout win and reclaim his crown at ONE ROOTS OF HONOR in April.
Although the decisive finish was enough to prove that his first loss to Saruta was nothing more but a fluke, the Team Lakay stalwart has never gotten over that misstep that whenever he’s asked who he wants to face next, it’s only the Japanese’s name which he has repeatedly answered.
As he approaches this third fight, Pacio has his full belief that he’s not just a better version of the fighter who fought Saruta two years back, he’s at his best this time out.
“We focused on all facets of my game. Remember that our goal is to become a well rounded athlete, so that covers everything from striking to grappling to wrestling and defense,” he said.
“I’m a more confident Joshua Pacio now and I sure am well more equipped. We’ve exchanged swords twice already and in those encounters, we’ve gauged each other pretty well.”
Pacio’s last two title defenses against Rene “The Challenger” Catalan at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE in November 2019 and Alex “Little Rock” Silva at ONE: FIRE AND FURY in January 2020 certainly helped him hone his skills and he has continuously developed his game since then.
It also gave the Filipino fighter a chance to be more methodical and analytical in his attack, knowing when to use his aggression and when to wisely pick his spots.
“Honestly, I’ve learned that I should not seek for a knockout win as it naturally presents itself when an opportunity opens. Instead, I should just have to follow the game plan, focus on executing it, and just show what I am capable of,” he said.
But Pacio also knows that Saruta has also improved ten-fold from the last time they faced each other. That’s why he remains wary of the dangers that his pesky foe has planned for him.
“I know that each of us will bring something new to the table and we’re sure to give it our all the moment we enter that circle. So I expect nothing but fireworks in this third fight,” he said.
That’s just the nature in this loaded strawweight division, with the continuous influx of elite talent forcing the headliners like Pacio to keep on reinventing himself to remain at the peak of the mountain.
“This is why we fight and get better every day. All of us want to have this belt and be the champion. This serves as a big motivation for all of us to become better martial artists and inspiration to our fans,” he said.
“What you’ll see are two great warriors who are willing to risk it all inside the circle. But at the end of the night, only one will come out victorious.”
As to who will have his hands raised at the end of the night? Pacio only has two words.