When Joshua Pacio faced Japanese veteran Yoshitaka Naito for the ONE Strawweight World Championship title four months ago, it appeared that capturing the prestigious gold-plated strap was within the Filipino fighter’s reach.
In the opening salvo, Pacio effortlessly stuffed all five takedown attempts of Naito and was clearly getting the best out of the stand-up exchanges.
Naito was finally able to get the fight to where he wanted with a successful single-leg takedown in second frame, but Pacio remained active on the ground by landing elbows and keeping his shoulders off the ground while looking to create space with his legs.
However, it only took one crucial mistake in the third round to crush Pacio’s championship aspirations as Naito secured a rear-naked choke to keep the ONE Strawweight World Championship belt around his waist.
Eager to put himself back on the winning track, Pacio is set to make his return to the ONE Championship cage on 11 March to square off with former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke on the undercard of ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM, which is set to happen at the 12,000-seater Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
Pacio guarantees a better version of himself as he crosses paths with an ex-world titleholder like Dejdamrong.
“He is a former champion. There shouldn’t be room even for a single mistake in this bout. One mistake took everything away from me in my last fight. This time around, I can’t be complacent. Moreover, I have to be two steps or three steps ahead of him,” he stated.
“Expect that I will be a better competitor inside the cage. My team has prepared a good strength and conditioning program to level up my cardio. I made sure to sharpen my striking. I also invested time in my ground game,” Pacio added.
Pacio admitted that his third-round submission setback to Naito acted as a valuable lesson and a reasonable opportunity to patch the loopholes in his skillset and mature as a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) competitor.
“It’s not a defeat. I think of it as a lesson. It has served as an inspiration and a reminder to work hard and push myself to the limit in training,” he said. “I am still young, and there are a lot of valuable things to learn in MMA. I believe great things are ahead of me.”
The 21-year-old Baguio City native expects that his three-round strawweight encounter with Dejdamrong will have no shortage of firepower as both men possess outstanding striking pedigrees.
Pacio has a Wushu Sanshou background, while Dejdamrong is a three-time Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai world champion.
“It’s going to be an action-packed fight. He is a striker and a world champion in Muay Thai. I have a Wushu background. It will be exciting for sure,” he stressed.
Seeking to vie for the ONE Strawweight World Championship once more, Pacio believes that a decisive victory over Dejdamrong will strengthen his bid to get a rematch with Naito.
“I want to fight for the title again. I was winning in that fight. I have to move on and focus on my next task. I believe that a win over Dejdamrong will put me back into the position to fight for the title again,” he ended.