Pacio ready to defend title anew, focuses on possible trilogy with Saruta

Published January 24, 2021, 6:12 PM

by Carlo Anolin

joshua pacio
ONE strawweight champion Joshua Pacio of Team Lakay (Photo from Joshua Pacio’s Instagram @joshuapacio)

ONE Championship strawweight king Joshua Pacio is more than ready to defend his belt anew this 2021.

Despite being on a hiatus since January last year, where he defeated former champion Alex Silva of Brazil, Pacio has spent most of his time training in Team Lakay’s Central Gym in Benguet while waiting for a call from the Singapore-based promotion.

The stacked strawweight division has a lot to offer to Pacio, and he is welcoming every challenger possible as a duty for a reigning champion.

“For me as a champion, marami sila sa rankings but for me, kahit sino. That’s the job of a champion,” Pacio told Manila Bulletin in a video call Sunday. “Mas malaking responsibility [kasi] kung sino iharap sa’yo, you have to be ready.”

The likes of South African rising star Bokang Masunyane (No. 3) and a rematch with former Japanese champions Yosuke Saruta (No.1 ) and Yoshitaka Naito (No. 2) are the expected matchups for Pacio this year.

Read: Pacio-Masunyane, Zamboanga-Lee among anticipated fights in 2021

It would be recalled that Masunyane called out the Igorot warrior after stunning Filipino contender Rene Catalan (No. 4)  in the first round last month while reports about the possible Saruta trilogy also resurfaced.

An unfazed Pacio, instead, lauded the South African challenger for his impressive showing.

“First of all, amazed ako sa performance niya. Alam natin na ‘di basta-basta si Rene pero that performance talagang na-amaze ako,” said Pacio, who just turned 25 years old early this month. “Bokang is very explosive and entertaining athlete… but I think ‘yung sinabi ng ONE Championship na kailangan [ko] nang i-settle ‘yung trilogy namin ni Saruta, I think para sa akin mas ayun ‘yung tinututukan ko.

Read: Team Lakay’s Pacio named among Black Belt Magazine’s Top 10 MMA fighters

“Pero siyempre lahat pinaghahandaan ko. From Rank 1 to 5. Every training, every style ng nasa 1 to 5,” added the Filipino champion, who improved to a 17-3 record after beating Silva (No. 5) via split decision.

Pacio’s goal is to showcase a different version of “The Passion,” seeking the “complete athlete” package every time he steps in the Circle.