Pacio to defend title vs Saruta, 2 other Filipinos to compete in ONE: Revolution

Published September 23, 2021, 3:33 PM

by Carlo Anolin

Three Filipinos are set to return to the Circle and carry the country’s pride and color in ONE: Revolution at the Singapore Indoor Stadium Friday, Sept. 24.

Reigning ONE strawweight champion Joshua Pacio of Team Lakay (left) and No. 1 contender Yosuke Saruta of Japan (right) strike a pose during their face-off Thursday, Sept. 23, ahead of their trilogy bout in ONE: Revolution Friday night, Sept. 24, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Also in the photo is ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong. (ONE Championship)

Reigning ONE strawweight champion Joshua Pacio of Team Lakay will settle unfinished business with Japanese rival and No. 1 contender Yosuke Saruta in a trilogy, Team Lakay’s strawweight bet Lito Adiwang will finally clash with Hexigetu of China, and Roel Rosauro will square off with amateur standout James Yang of the United States in their featherweight bout.

“I’m so excited to be back in the Circle,” said Pacio during a live press conference and face off Thursday, Sept. 23. “It’s been two years since our rematch and you can see in our fights we’ve been improving. Saruta has been improving as well.

“It’s the reason why we’re leveling up each day and motivated. It’s the very reason why I’m very motivated every day so we’re gonna show it tomorrow night. It’s gonna be an explosive fight,” added the 25-year-old Pacio, who owns a 19-3 record.

The trilogy marks Pacio’s third straight title defense since defending the strawweight belt twice against the likes of compatriot Rene Catalan and former world champion Alex Silva of Brazil.

Pacio has not fought since beating Silva in January 2020 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City before the COVID-19 pandemic put a standstill to the sporting world.

Team Lakay is not an exception to the rage of the coronavirus as Pacio, Adiwang, and even ONE newcomer Stephen Loman, who is set to debut last April, all tested positive for COVID-19 early this year.

But Pacio himself assured that he is 100 percent ready in all aspects — physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally — against the 34-year-old Japanese icon, who improved to a 21-9-3 win-loss-draw record.

“Earlier this year, I got COVID-19. It’s hard but we are fighters not just in the Circle but also in real life,” said the Igorot warrior. “So we overcame COVID and here we are 100 percent ready and we’re on.”

Saruta, for his part, is banking on his mental tenacity when he faces his Filipino rival. He is coming from a two-match win streak since defeating compatriots Daichi Kitakata in October 2019 and ONE’s division No. 2 Yoshitaka Naito in September last year.

Pacio first captured the strawweight belt after dethroning Naito in September 2018 but Saruta took it as early as January 2019.

Three months later in April of the same year, Pacio easily reclaimed the title by knocking out Saruta with a lethal right high knee in the fourth round of their rematch.