ONE champion Pacio returns in trilogy fight with Japanese rival

REIGNING ONE Championship world strawweight champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of the Philippines makes his long-awaited return to action this month in the third fight in his rivalry with Japanese Yosuke “The Ninja” Saruta.

Pacio-Saruta III is one of three featured world title fights in “ONE: Revolution” on Sept. 24 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

It will serve as a rubber match between Messrs. Pacio (18-3) and Naruta (21-9-3), who split their first two encounters in the strawweight division.

Team Lakay’s Mr. Pacio lost in their first encounter, and the division title, in January 2019 (split decision), but was able to exact payback and return as champion three months later with a fourth-round knockout win (head kick) over the Japanese.

Back after a year and a half of inaction, Mr. Pacio, 25, said he is locked in for the upcoming fight and excited to get it going.

“I’m so fired up to get back inside the ONE Circle. It’s been a year and a half since my last outing and I really miss the feeling of being inside that Circle and defending the belt,” he said.

Against a familiar foe and no easy opponent in Mr. Saruta, the Filipino champion has been training hard, working on his game to come up with a performance worthy to remain as champion and grow as an athlete.

“We focused on all facets of my game. Remember that our goal is to become a well-rounded athlete, so that covers everything from striking to grappling to wrestling and defense,” he said.

Adding, “I’m a more confident Joshua Pacio now and I sure am well more equipped. We’ve exchanged swords twice already and in those encounters, we’ve gauged each other pretty well.”

He went on to say that a competitive battle is to be expected in Revolution against Mr. Saruta and the need to stay the course cannot be underscored enough.

“Honestly, I’ve learned that I should not seek for a knockout win as it naturally presents itself when an opportunity opens. Instead, I should just have to follow the game plan, focus on executing it, and just show what I am capable of,” he said.

“I know that each of us will bring something new to the table and we’re sure to give it our all the moment we enter that Circle. So I expect nothing, but fireworks in this third fight,” Mr. Pacio added.

In his last fight, Mr. Pacio successfully defended his title against former champion Alex Silva of Brazil by way of split decision.

Also featured in ONE: Revolution is the lightweight world championship fight between reigning champion Christian Lee of Singapore/United States and challenger Ok Rae Yoon of South Korea, and the bantamweight kickboxing world championship clash between Thai champion Capitan and Algeria’s Mehdi Zatout.

Another Filipino seeing action in the event is strawweight Lito Adiwang against Hexigetu of China in a lead card clash. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo

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