ONE Championship strawweight king Joshua Pacio remained focused on his current mission to improve his game and defend the title, downplaying being labeled as the new face of Philippine mixed martial arts.
The 25-year-old Pacio, who holds a 19-3 record, believes he has yet to reach the peak of his career yet.
“I’m still young and I think I’m still far from the level of kuya Eduard [Folayang] or kuya Brandon [Vera],” said Pacio. “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.”
Folayang and Vera were those who bannered the Philippines and put the country into the spotlight, especially after bagging their respective titles.
Folayang, 36, was a two-time lightweight champion while Vera, 43, was the heavyweight titleholder since 2015 before Indian opponent Arjan Bhullar took over his place last May.
No less than Team Lakay also put the Philippines on the map when the famed Benguet stable brought home four world titles in 2018, namely Folayang, Pacio, Geje Eustaquio (flyweight), and Kevin Belingon (bantamweight).
Were it not for the lessons imparted by his kuyas in Team Lakay, Pacio wouldn’t reach as far as where he is now. That is why the Team Lakay stalwart will always pay homage to those who paved the way for the sports’ prominence on a global stage.
“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,” said 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.”
Pacio, however, has been inactive since his defending the strawweight belt against former champion Alex Silva of Brazil in January last year.
Now a two-time strawweight champion, Pacio first took the belt when he dethroned Yoshitaka Naito in September 2018 but lost it months later against another Japanese foe Yosuke Saruta in January 2019.
He came back with a knockout win over Saruta in April 2019 to reclaim the strawweight title and defended it for the first time against compatriot Rene Catalan in November 2019.