Joshua “The Passion” Pacio (11-2) is re-emerging as a top contender.
The 22-year-old martial arts prodigy is riding a two-bout win streak, and is on the verge of entering the ONE Strawweight World Title picture yet again.
To make a cast-iron claim to be the rightful challenger for the division’s current number one, Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, he will need to defeat an unbeaten Thai hero.
On Friday, 27 July, the Team Lakay standout will square off against Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit (9-0) at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS, which emanates from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
“This bout, like any, is honestly very important to me,” Pacio says.
“He is obviously a very good striker given his Muay Thai background, but what makes him dangerous is that he is very well-rounded. His wrestling and grappling are also on a high level. We match up quite well.”
The strawweight contest, which was originally scheduled for ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in January before an injury forced “The Smiling Assassin” to withdraw, will be an exciting battle between young strikers from different martial arts backgrounds.
Mitsatit, also 22, is a well-accomplished Muay Thai practitioner who has a 72-17 record in the discipline, and is a Northern Thailand Champion.
The Chang Mai native flawlessly transitioned his skills to mixed martial arts in June 2014, and he has since built upon his skill set and finished all bout one of his opponents.
In contrast, Pacio is a wushu stylist who has added a formidable grappling repertoire to his high-octane striking arsenal. That has led to victories against some of his division’s best athletes, including former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke.
Now, the Filipino is eager to see how his talent stacks up against another surging young contender.
“Every discipline has its own beauty, whether it is wushu, Muay Thai, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I embrace all styles. I am a student of all arts,” he says.
“The win will go to whomever can mix it up better. I am excited to test my skills against a worthy opponent in Pongsiri Mitsatit.”
Pacio only needs to look around him in training to be inspired to keep pushing towards the top prize in mixed martial arts.
In June, his Team Lakay stablemate Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio defeated Adriano Moraes to become the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.
“The Passion” is also training alongside Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, who challenges two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in the main event of ONE: REIGN OF KINGS for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship.
Being surrounded by successful teammates has raised Pacio’s morale, and motivates him to become a World Champion in his own weight class.
“I am inspired and amazed with the things going on around me,” he says.
“Kuya (brother) Geje just won the Flyweight World Title, and now kuya Kevin is going to be fighting for the Bantamweight World Title. This has lit a spark inside of me, and now I am more energized in training. I want to be where they are now.”
Pacio unsuccessfully challenged Naito in October 2016, but the youngster has continued to cultivate his talent and grow as a mixed martial artist.
The Filipino has ascended up the ranks on the strength of his last two victories – an impeccable spinning back fist KO of Roy Doliguez in November, and a dominant rear-naked choke submission of Lan Ming Qiang in January.
Although a decisive victory against Mitsatit does not guarantee him a rematch with “Nobita” for the ONE Strawweight World Championship, he is content with fine-tuning his game until his second golden opportunity presents itself.
“It is up to ONE Championship when I will fight for the title again, but I will happily take my time developing my skills correctly,” Pacio says.
“I am learning, growing, and gaining more experience with each passing bout. I can feel myself getting stronger and better. I can see the improvements in my performances. As a martial artist, this is why I work so hard.”