ONE Championship’s strawweight division is on fire, and the divisional champ Joshua “The Passion” Pacio stands atop that mountain as 2022 nears. The reigning king of the division completed his trilogy with Yosuke Saruta in 2021 while fresh faces climbed up the mountain beneath him. The ability to take the series from his Japanese rival was an important piece of Pacio’s story.
“As a world champion, that’s my job – to defend the belt and leave no questions,” Pacio said. “Aside from that, I’d have to admit that there was a bit of pressure on my end, because a lot of people were thinking that I may suffer ring rust, so I’m happy to prove them wrong as well.
“In that fight, you can see that I was just defending the takedowns and then attempting to get back up when I got taken down. What I wanted to show was my well-roundedness – that I can also go for takedowns and submissions against a very tough opponent like Saruta.”
One of the top challengers to Pacio’s title is American Jarred Brooks, who finally made his organizational debut by toppling Pacio’s teammate, Lito Adiwang last November. Brooks has called out Team Lakay and stated his intention of knocking off the Filipino king. Pacio is well aware of the risks he brings into ONE’s Circle and knows a meeting with “The Monkey God” could be just around the corner.
“Personally, I respect Jarred Brooks as an athlete,” Pacio said. “He’s a very experienced athlete, and he’s a really confident fighter. What makes Jarred Brooks good is his experience. He’s been fighting at the top level in mixed martial arts for the longest time.
“I can say he’s one of the threats in this division. But, as I’ve been saying, I’ve been improving one percent each day. And while he’s saying that I haven’t faced someone on his level, I know for a fact that he also hasn’t faced someone like me.”
As 2022 draws near, “The Passion” is ready for all comers. But perhaps even more enticing for Pacio is the prospect of crowds returning in full force. In one of the final capacity crowds of 2020, Pacio defended his gold against Alex Silva in Manila. The crowd’s roar is something that the Team Lakay star feels is missing right now in the sport.
“Oh man, I miss the crowds so much,” said Pacio. “I miss competing in front of the Filipino fans. Right now, it’s far noisier and rowdier during sparring sessions than in our actual fights.
“Sure, we’re starting to let a few people in, but it’s sure far off from our crowds in the past. Now you can hear your coaches well and even the coaches of your opponent. When you win, of course, you’re happy. But winning in front of a crowd is something different.”
With contenders chomping at the bit, and hope for a brighter 2022 shining in the distance, Pacio is ready to show the world a new version of himself on the global stage. He has said that his goal is to continue his well-rounded development as he continues to be the face of Filipino martial arts.
“For my career, it’s still the same – continue improving and make sure I continue to defend the world title,” said the champ. “I hope to defend it in front of the fans here in the Philippines.
“We’ve gone through a lot of challenges. We’ve had ups and downs in life, and we have to use those learnings to grow up, so expect an improved and more well-rounded Joshua Pacio next year.”
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