By Jun Ray Navarres
ONE strawweight champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio remains the only Filipino champion in ONE Championship.
But he feels no pressure being left as the lone Filipino titleholder in ONE Championship but rather redirects his mind in honing his arsenal for possible challengers of the belt.
Being at the top of his division, the Igorot warrior is more wary of the old and new threats to his belt that is why he is focused on training more than ever.
“A lot of people are saying that I’m the only champion left for the Philippines. But for me, I don’t feel any pressure because that’s not what’s in my head right now. Instead, I’m more focused on improving my skills and I’m more focused on what to bring next inside the ONE Circle,” said Pacio.
Pacio captured the golden plated strap of ONE Strawweight division when he took down Yoshitaka Naito in 2018 via unanimous decision. However, a controversial split decision loss to Yosuke Saruta in early 2019 cut his reign short.
Pacio then made a comeback three months later to finish Saruta with a head kick to reinstate himself as the king of strawweight.
Beside him, four more Filipino world champions dominated ONE Championship – three of which are his stablemates in Team Lakay.
Eduard Folayang led the honor roll, reigning over the ONE Lightweight World Championship, Geje Eustaquio took home the ONE Flyweight World Championship, Kevin Belingon with the ONE Bantamweight World Championship, and Brandon Vera as the ONE Heavyweight kingpin.
Even after losing their belts one by one, leaving Pacio as the only reigning champion, Pacio still looks at them with glimmering eyes, learning from them every day.
“Back when I first joined Team Lakay, I was so proud that I was training with champions. And until now, every time I enter the gym, that feeling never changes,” shared Pacio.
“I still train with the champions. I still train with kuya Eduard, kuya Kevin, kuya Geje, kuya Honorio [Banario], and kuya Edward [Kelly]. For me they are still world champions until this day and they will forever be champions in my eyes.”
Despite being at the peak of his division and being included at the world rankings of various fighting organizations, Pacio believes that he is not yet at the peak of his career, dropping the tag of the new face of MMA.
“I’m still young and I think I’m still far from the level of kuya Eduard or kuya Brandon,” said the 25-year-old world champion.
“I’m not on my peak yet. Give us three to five years more and you can see a very different Joshua Pacio. Right now, I’m more focused on honing up our game and growing even a single percent every day.”
Pacio also believes that the new faces of Team Lakay will soon join him in reinstating the dominance of the stable on the international stage.
“I think being the lone Filipino champion in ONE won’t take very long because I’m confident that my teammates will be champions soon. I still train under coach Mark Sangiao and I think that will preserve our spot at the top, plus we are all training with hungry young lions,” Pacio concluded.
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