Wish granted as Pacio takes on Japanese rival Saruta

Published September 8, 2021, 2:34 PM

by Carlo Anolin

Joshua Pacio hit two birds with one stone upon his much-awaited return in the Circle.

Team Lakay’s Joshua Pacio (right) will take on Japanese rival Yosuke Saruta in their trilogy. (ONE Championship)

Not only he will return to ONE Championship stage after more than a year of hiatus but will also settle unfinished business with Japanese rival Yosuke Saruta in their decisive trilogy in ONE: Revolution at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Sept. 24.

“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,” said Pacio, who owns a 19-3 record.

“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.”

For the longest time since defending his belt against former world champion Alex Silva last January 2020, Pacio has been eager to face more challengers in the stacked strawweight division.

But the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on his aspirations and plans as current world champion and remained holed up in Benguet to train.

In past interviews, the Team Lakay stalwart has been locked on to take on Saruta, who is the No. 1 contender in the division. This will mark Pacio’s third title defense since beating compatriot Rene Catalan last November 2019.

“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,” said the two-time strawweight champion.

“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.”

It would be recalled that Pacio first captured the strawweight belt after dethroning Yoshitaka Naito, also of Japan, in September 2018 but lost it months later against Saruta in January 2019.

The Team Lakay champion returned strong with a knockout win over Saruta in April of the same year to reclaim the title.

Since then, the 25-year-old Pacio rode on a three-win match streak including back-to-back title defenses against Catalan and Silva.

“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,” added Pacio, who remains as the lone Filipino champion in ONE Championship.

“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.”