Chances are Joshua “The Passion” Pacio might place himself on the verge of another shot at the ONE Strawweight World Championship title if he secures an impressive triumph in his upcoming bout Japanese newcomer Hayato Suzuki on the undercard of ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS in Macao, China.
The 21-year-old Baguio native, however, revealed that he is not in a hurry and would rather take the long road to a second championship crack than prematurely vie for the gold-plated strap.
“I am willing to wait for the right time. Timing is everything. Every moment has its own purpose,” he said. “I don’t race to be in line for that belt, but I’m racing to perfection in this sport.”
Pacio earned his lone previous title shot when he defeated gritty Thai grappler Kritsada Kongsrichai via first-round submission in August 2016 to set up a date with ONE Championship’s reigning strawweight kingpin Yoshitaka Naito.
The Team Lakay young gun almost took home the strap but a rear-naked choke in the third round latched by Naito, however, pulled off the come-from-behind win and crush Pacio’s dream to become the youngest Filipino to win a world title in MMA as well as ended his undefeated streak.
Pacio effortlessly stuffed all five takedown attempts of Naito in the first round and peppered his Japanese foe with lunging right hands and spinning back kicks in the October 2016 bout.
The second round was not different because Pacio inflicted damage even while defending on his back down to the mat.
It just wasn’t meant to be as Naito executed the well-timed submission move to end the bout.
Pacio, however, saw his heartbreaking setback to Naito as an important lesson that gave him an opportunity to patch the loopholes in his outstanding skill-set.
“It’s not a defeat. I viewed as an important lesson. It also served as an inspiration to push myself to the limit. It is an eye-opening experience. Here I am standing in front of you as a matured competitor inside the cage,” Pacio stated.
Pacio reaped the fruits of his labor this past March when he scored a hard fought, huge split-decision victory over former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke.
“Every martial artist should have the sense of growth. This sport is constantly evolving, and every fighter should adapt to changes and improve their overall MMA game. It’s either you adapt or you fail. I learned my lesson, and I chose to adapt for the better,” Pacio shared.
“Every fight is a lesson. We, as fighters, gain valuable knowledge every time we train and step into the cage. I am here to learn and grown. I will always be grateful with what I have. I have no problem if I need to prove once again that I deserve another championship opportunity,” Pacio asserted.
His next challenge this coming 5th of August is Japanese newcomer Hayato Suzuki in the undercard of ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS at the glamorous Cotai Arena of The Venetian Macao in Macao, China.
Suzuki is no patsy as he owns a remarkable MMA record of 16-0-2 and is known as a well-rounded warrior who has the ability to stop his foes with his heavy hands and technical grappling skills.
Out of 16 career wins, Suzuki has finished 11 of his opponents, including six by submission and five by knockouts. He, however, has to be tested by foreign opposition. All of his opponents, except one are fellow Japanese and all his professional MMA fight were held in Japan.
“It’s going to be an action-packed fight. I can’t be complacent. Moreover, I have to be two steps or three steps ahead of him,” Pacio said about his clash against Suzuki.
Pacio is motivated to mark the first blemish in Suzuki’s immaculate MMA record. “He’s never been knocked out. He’s never been submitted. He’s undefeated. This is MMA. Anything can happen,” he conveyed.
“My skills versus his skills will be incredible. This will be one of the fights that will be remembered because he will showcase his skills and I will showcase mine, so you had better watch it,” said Pacio.
Suzuki might pose a threat to Pacio’s spot in the rankings, but the latter leans on the learning from the match-up that can benefit his maturity as a prizefighter.
“I don’t fear that my opponent has the ability to take my spot in the rankings. I am consistently improving. The goal is to win and improve. That’s my mindset right now.”, he said
Now using the moniker “The Passion” due to his ardent desire to improve each day as a martial artist, Pacio remains optimistic that the ONE Strawweight World Championship title will be in his possession someday with his working hard to improve his game.
“As I grind at the gym every single day, I know that the belt will be mine soon. Hard work cannot be denied forever,” he ended.
Happy to be back in Macao, vows stellar performance
Pacio had a memorable trip to Macao a year ago at ONE Championship’s inaugural live event in this Chinese suburb known as “Oyster City.”
He defeated gritty Thai grappler Kritsada Kongsrichai by way of first-round submission on the undercard of ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD, proving that Team Lakay fighters are not isolated in the striking department.
Pacio effortlessly took Kongsrichai down to the mat and fastened a rear-naked choke to force his Thai foe to tap at the 4:37 mark of the first round.
Pacio did not mince words about his excitement to strut his wares in Macao, which is also home to thousands of overseas Filipino workers.
“I love fighting in Macao. The venue is so awesome. It’s truly world-class. Furthermore, there are a lot of Filipinos living and working there. Whenever I compete there, it feels like I am fighting back home. The energy is palpable. I can’t wait to be back,” he said.
Pacio promises a new and improved version of himself when he steps inside the ONE Championship cage against Suzuki.
“There is always a room for improvement. Although I won against Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke last March, there is still an urgency to improve my skills and arsenal further after the fight. This time, we enhanced timing and precision. We added speed as well as proper executions of game plan,” he shared.
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS