Filipino strawweight Joshua “The Passion” Pacio is already one of the most exciting rising stars in ONE Championship, but the 22-year-old is not letting success go to his head.
Pacio firmly believes the core aspects of martial arts are helping him stay grounded despite his rapid rise on the global scene.
“Being humble means keeping your feet on the ground no matter what,” Pacio explains.
“It is very easy for success to get to your head, but you should always respect your opponents and thank them for every experience you share with them inside the cage.
“At the end of the day, every experience is a learning experience, and you have to be humble enough to recognise that.”
Pacio has only been a competitor in ONE Championship for two and a half years, but he has made great strides as he has developed into one of the best strawweights in the world.
The Team Lakay product’s excellent early form saw him thrust into a ONE Strawweight World Title bout against Yoshitaka Naito in his third bout with the organisation at ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS.
Unfortunately, the result didn’t go his way as, after an impressive start to the contest, he was submitted in the third round.
The loss inspired Pacio to ramp up his training to help plug the holes in his game. The young Filipino was humble enough to recognise that his ground game needed work, and he set about correcting his shortcomings at Team Lakay’s Baguio City gym.
“That loss taught me more about myself than any of my victories,” he admits.
“Winning feels good, but being given the opportunity to discover my weaknesses, that was invaluable. Now, I’ve learned and grown so much. I am a completely different fighter.”
Pacio’s dedication to improvement has seen him become a genuinely well-rounded mixed martial artist.
His wushu striking skills that were the key feature of his early ONE performances have been complemented by an evolving ground game that has seen him capture victories on the mat during his return to contention.
Now, Pacio has the opportunity to showcase his improvements in his second World Title bout as he takes on Naito in a rematch in the main event of ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES in Jakarta on 22 September.
“I take this as an opportunity to finally show him that I have changed so much since the last time we fought,” Pacio explains.
“I respect Naito a lot as a champion, as a competitor, and as a martial artist. To be able to show him what I’ve become in the two years since I lost to him is an honour for me.
“Win or lose, this time my goal is to show him that I am worthy of competing for this title.”
A victory would not only see Pacio achieve his dream of becoming a world champion, it would also prove to himself, and the rest of the roster, that you can bounce back from defeat, improve your game, and return to prevail further down the line.
It is equally as important for Pacio that victory would help inspire his fellow countrymen to pursue their dreams.
“In our position, as global athletes, we have a lot of influence,” he says.
“I want to be a compassionate athlete. I want to show the people that I care beyond the ring or the cage. Luckily for me, I see this all around me, with my teammates and with my heroes. I am inspired.”
Pacio’s desire to inspire comes from his admiration for his more senior Team Lakay colleague, former ONE Lightweight Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, as well as Filipino national hero, eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
“Eduard has been helping the less fortunate for the longest time, even by just inspiring people when he performs. He inspires everyone. He inspires me. I hope one day I can be like that,” he says.
“I hope one day I can be like Manny Pacquiao, too, who brings peace to the entire country every time he fights. I have a lot of goals in my career, and inspiring people is definitely one of them.
“I will always look back and thank those who have been there for me and supported me since day one. It is important for martial artists to be both humble and compassionate because this will unlock our true capabilities.”