By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
ONE Championship’s latest Manila live event happens today, featuring an all-Filipino title fight between reigning world strawweight champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio and challenger Rene “The Challenger” Catalan, who both expressed readiness to get it going.
Set for the Mall of Asia Arena at 6 p.m., “ONE: Masters of Fate,” the promotion fourth event in the country in 2019, will see Mr. Pacio defend the title he reclaimed in his last fight against a veteran fighter in Mr. Catalan (6-2), who at 40 years old gets his chance to vie for the ONE strawweight crown.
Taking on a compatriot, 23-year-old Pacio said he feels honored to create history with Mr. Catalan with their All-Filipino affair on home soil but he reiterated his intent on keeping his title.
“Once again, it is an honor to perform in front of my hometown fans in Manila. Putting on a show for all the Filipino people, it’s always something I am excited for. Rene Catalan is a worthy challenger. He’s riding a six-bout winning streak and is full of confidence. I am expecting only the best from him,” said Mr. Pacio at the open workout for the event held early this week.
“As always, I take this as an opportunity to test my skills. He’s a veteran who has been fighting his whole life. I have also been impressed by his recent performances. It’s rare that a Filipino will fight another Filipino for a world title. But I’m glad to be part of history,” said Team Lakay stalwart Pacio.
Mr. Pacio has also made it known that he is going into the fight with his Team Lakay stable mates in mind, in light of the current struggles they have been having in the promotion.
In Japan last month, Team Lakay athletes and former champions Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon and Honorio “The Rock” Banario both lost their respective fights.
Also falling short was Danny “The King” Kingad, who bowed to American Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in the flyweight grand prix final.
Mr. Catalan, meanwhile, is savoring the opportunity presented to him, with being ONE champion something he has been longing to become for quite some time now.
He knows that the odds are against him vis-à-vis the younger Pacio but it is something not stopping him from going for it.
“I am super confident heading into this matchup. Becoming a mixed martial arts world champion has been a goal of mine for a long time. Now, I have the opportunity to fulfill my dream. I know chances like this don’t come often, so I’m giving this everything I have,” Mr. Catalan said.
“I don’t plan on leaving the Circle without that belt. Joshua Pacio is a young champion, he still has his entire career ahead of him. I respect his skills and his journey up to this point. But once that cage door shuts, it’s go time,” added the veteran fighter, who has not lost in ONE Championship since December 2014.
Also set to see action today are former Filipino ONE world champions Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio.
Mr. Folayang battles Amarsana Tsogookhuu of Mongolia in a lightweight encounter while flyweight Eustaquio engages Toni Tauru of Finland.
Another Filipino playing in the event is Robin Catalan versus Gustavo Balart of Cuba.