Pacio looks to continue ascent in brand-new year

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ONE Championship world strawweight champion Joshua Pacio of the Philippines looks to stay at the course and maintain his fine form as he begins his year with a title defense later this year. -- ALVIN S. GO

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

FINISHED the Year 2019 strong, ONE Championship world strawweight champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of the Philippines looks to sustain his ascent in the brand-new year.

Mr. Pacio is set to begin 2020 by defending his title against former champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva of Brazil at “ONE: Fire & Fury” on Jan. 31 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Lost his title at the start of 2019 to Japanese Yosuke Saruta, Team Lakay’s Pacio (16-3) regained it three months later before finishing the year with a successful defense against compatriot Rene Catalan in November.

Twenty-four-year-old Pacio said he hopes to stay the course as he continues to solidify his standing in the division, armed with the lessons of his journey of late.

“I learned a lot this year (2019), and I’m really happy with my progress,” said Mr. Pacio, who enters his fourth year with Asia’s largest sports media property.

“Obviously, I lost the bout early in January and that was pretty painful. But I’m also grateful for that experience because it showed me areas of weakness that I needed to improve on. I worked hard to get where I’m at and we saw those improvements in April and November,” he added.

As ONE champion in strawweight, Mr. Pacio acknowledges that nothing would come easy for him and that he has to be on top of his game each time lest he find himself sans the title he so worked hard for to achieve.

“As the reigning champion, there’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. That’s why I’m always in the gym working on my craft. I enjoy the process of training, the process of getting better…” said Mr. Pacio, who first became ONE champion in September 2018 when he took the title from Yoshitaka Naito of Japan.

As to his upcoming title defense against Mr. Silva (9-4), the Filipino champion said that he is expecting a tough challenge no less as the Brazilian has gone through big fights before.

“At this level, there’s not a lot of separation between fighters. Everyone is talented and has their own strengths and weaknesses. The only thing is that, as a champion, every opponent I face is a hungry lion wanting to take my throne. They want the belt and every challenge is tough. That’s why I have to remain focused and make sure these guys don’t beat me,” Mr. Pacio said.

Fire & Fury is the first to be held in the country in ONE Championship’s packed 2020 calendar.

Other Filipinos set to see action in the event are former lightweight champion Eduard Folayang, flyweight Danny Kingad, strawweight Lito Adiwang, and women atomweight fighters Gina Iniong and Jomary Torres.