At just 22, Joshua Pacio (10-2) has accomplished what few men have, even those twice his age.
Since turning professional five years ago, “The Passion” has quickly risen up the strawweight ranks, impressing audiences with his world-class martial arts ability and shocking knockout power.
Yet behind his boyish smile and beaming youth lies the composure of a grizzled cage veteran, capable of spectacular performances in front of mesmerizing crowds. A talent of the highest order, Pacio has emerged as one of the Philippines’ most talented martial artists in ONE Championship.
“I never envisioned myself being at this level so early in my career,” he admits. “I always thought it would take me a few years before I would be able to compete on such a big stage. Through hard work, I was able to push myself to become better.”
Pacio joined ONE in April 2016, then just a few months removed from his teenage years. No one knew quite what to expect from the next-generation talent representing Baguio City’s famed Team Lakay.
Pacio immediately made a splash in his promotional debut, earning a second-round TKO victory over fellow countryman Rabin Catalan. Four months later, he needed less than a round to submit 13-time Thai Wrestling Champion Kritsada “Dream Man” Kongsrichai via rear-naked choke.
“It all happened so fast for me,” he recollects. “Before I knew it, I was already lined up for a title shot.”
Later that October, in just his third outing for the organization, Pacio challenged then-unbeaten ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito in the main event of ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS. He dominated the majority of the bout, but unfortunately fell to a third-round submission, which gave him the first blemish of his career.
“I learned a lot from that loss — about what it takes to become a world champion, but mostly about myself,” he explains, with no regrets. “It was a great experience for me.”
Since then, he has experienced mixed results — earning a split decision victory over former strawweight world champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, followed by a loss to highly-regarded Japanese wrestler Hayato Suzuki.
However, most importantly, he has continued to excite fans with thrilling performances, and he is planning to do it again in just a few days’ time.
Coming off a scintillating spinning knockout of veteran Roy Doliguez just last November, Pacio is set to return to the cage on Friday, 26 January. He will face China’s Lan Ming Qiang in the co-main event of ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES, which broadcasts from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
“The Passion” was originally scheduled to face unbeaten Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit (9-0), but an injury forced the Thai star to withdraw from the bout. Lan admirably stepped in on short notice against an elite opponent, and wants to make an immediate statement against the hometown hero.
Based in Guangxi, China, the 24-year-old Lan is a multiple-time Chinese sanda champion who trains alongside flyweight world title contender “The Southern Eagle” Ma Hao Bin — who battles Sotir Kichukov on the same card — at the Jincan Defense Club.
Despite Lan’s decorated striking pedigree, Pacio feels like he is the more well-rounded athlete. He also believes his recent setbacks have only provided him with more wisdom, which he thinks will ultimately push him forward in this upcoming tilt.
“I have more experience, and I believe the two losses I have suffered in my career have taught me a lot. I see those setbacks as an advantage, rather than just a blemish on my record,” the Filipino explains.
“Lan Ming Qiang is a solid striker. I watched one of his matches, and he is tough. But I think I am more experienced when it comes to the cage, and I think that is my advantage coming into this bout.”
Also, this bout carries a little more sentimental value for the wushu stylist. This will be the first time he co-main events a major show in his home country, and he wants to use this as an opportunity to both prove his worth, and motivate a new generation in the Philippines.
“This match means a lot to me,” Pacio begins. “I want to prove that I deserve to be competing on this international stage. I want to show to my countrymen that we also excel in martial arts, and to inspire more youths to pursue their respective dreams.”
The 22-year-old certainly has the makings of a Filipino martial arts superstar. He already has the mentality of a champion. All the victories, and the losses, have served their purpose.
Pacio has matured in the nearly two years he has been with the organization, and now he is ready to bring his career to the next level with another awe-inspiring performance.