FORMER ONE CHAMPIONSHIP strawweight champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of the Philippines makes his cage return later this week, barely three months since losing his title, with the intent of going back on top.

Mr. Pacio (13-3) of Team Lakay reengages with now-champion Yosuke “Tobizaru” Saruta (19-8-3) of Japan in the co-main event for “ONE: Roots of Honor” on April 12 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Main event for the latest Manila show of ONE Championship is the featherweight title clash between reigning champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen of Australia and former champ Narantungalag Jadambaa of Mongolia.

The upcoming strawweight title clash is generating much interest especially after how Mr. Saruta won the title, by way of a controversial split decision that many thought, including ONE chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong, should have gone the other way around, prompting the immediate rematch between Mr. Pacio and the Japanese champion.

The circumstances of the fight only motivate him some more, said Mr. Pacio, and he now looks to churning out a convincing win to bring the title back to the Philippines and his team.

“I hope to showcase the things that I wasn’t able to show last January. I need to be more aggressive, especially being the challenger. I’m hungry to prove myself again and bounce back,” said Mr. Pacio, alluding to his tough loss in January in Jakarta, Indonesia.

While he is confident heading into the rematch, the Filipino mixed martial arts fighter said nothing but his best across all fronts is required if he is to ascend anew to the top of his division.

“Now I need to focus even more, I need to be more confident. From what I saw in our last bout, my confidence was really low, and now I need to be more confident than ever,” said the 23-year-old Pacio.

Adding, “I’m excited and even more motivated because the rematch will happen here in the Philippines. I must admit that there’s a bit of an added pressure on my part to perform, but at the same time, the hunger and the will to win far outweigh that.”

Other Filipinos seeing action at Roots of Honor are Team Lakay’s Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly against South Korea’s Sung Jong Lee in a featherweight clash and Eric “The Natural” Kelly versus Korean Kwon Won Il.

Strawweight Ramon Gonzales is also on tap against Japanese Akihiro Fujisawa.

ONE: Roots of Honor will be shown live over the ONE mobile app and in the Philippines over ABS-CBN S+A, beginning at 8:30 p.m., and iWant Sports. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo