Joshua Pacio

Photo via ONE Championship PR

Joshua Pacio on ONE strawweight champion’s return timeline

Joshua Pacio is the reigning ONE Championship strawweight world titlist. It has been close to a year and a half since he last stepped into the ONE Circle.

Below are several excerpts from my recent conversation with the Team Lakay product.

Adapting to training amid the global pandemic


“Yeah, but last year, it’s very hard you know. To find ways on how to train. Every area here was slapped down. Some of us get passes to go to the gym to train last year. But around September or October, the situation’s getting great. We can go to the gym. And you know, this year, we can all now go to the gym and train.”

When he really entrenched himself in fight tournaments and then embarked on his MMA journey

“I started martial arts like, I just want it for fitness. Because I was fat. I just want to get fit. So I started Muay Thai just for fitness. But when I get fit, I tried competing. And from that moment, even though I lost a lot of my amateur competition I still enjoy it. I still get back up for training even though I lost. That’s the time I realized that I enjoy doing martial arts. The time I realized that I enjoy doing martial arts…I realized that I need to pursue this.”

Joshua Pacio

The importance of the amateur experience to having a smooth transition to becoming a pro fighter

“For me, it’s experience. Very good experiences, especially when you experience a lot of loss in your amateur competitions. And you already know how to deal with losses. And if you go turn pro, if you experience loss you know how to deal with it. Not like if you are undefeated in your amateur career, and you experience loss in your professional career, it’s very hard to deal with. That’s the one thing I’m thankful for in experiencing those losses in my amateur career. I know how to deal with it already.”

Lessons learned from amateur losses to recapture ONE strawweight gold

“When I turned pro if I lost, if I experienced loss, I’m not that disappointed. And my mindset is, what’s my weaknesses? I need to go back to the drawing board. I need to assess what went wrong. And that’s what my mindset is. So that’s why, when the rematch happened with (Yoshitaka) Naito, I won. And when the rematch happened with (Yosuke) Saruta, I won. That’s why, learning from your mistakes is a very important thing when you’ve lost.”

Team Lakay

The tight-knit family dynamics among the champion fighters at Team Lakay

“So for me, I’m very privileged that I have my teammates. Not only teammates because for me already, this is a family. And we motivate each other. We are there with each other, ups and downs. And we work on our skills, improving one percent every day. And that’s the goal. To be a well-rounded athlete, you know. As you can see in my division, it’s very stacked already…Leveling up. That’s why my job also is to level up. And I’m very privileged I have my teammates, my coaches here helping me to level up my game.”

The biggest hurdles causing his competitive hiatus from the ONE Circle

“Yeah, I think it’s the pandemic issues. I think at this moment you need to have really vaccinated before you can travel. So one thing. One problem, and since last year. I was supposed to fight last year in November but I get injured in my knee. That’s why. And of course, pandemic traveling, it’s very hard. But yeah, training continues. I still spar five rounds, the feeling when you go out there and fight. You need to feel it on training. So that you will not experience, what they call the ring rust.”

the Alex Silva split and Yosuke Saruta trilogy

The nervousness hearing the scorecards for the Silva split decision win

“Oh for me, I’m confident that I put everything there. We work so hard, and I think every round I won. But when they said that it’s split decision, I was a little bit nervous. When you put it in the judges’ scorecards, it’s very hard. I didn’t get the finish. My coaches, my teammates in the ringside said that I won. So I’m confident my hand will be raised in that moment.”

A possible rubber match with number one ranked strawweight Yosuke Saruta

“Yeah, I think we have unfinished business. It’s all one-one, and he’s the number one ranked in my division. And I think he deserves to fight me again. So I think when I get back inside the (ONE) Circle, he’s my opponent for sure.”

Joshua Pacio stated, “Yeah, this trilogy happens, we know each other well. We fought two times. And I think the guy who will mix things up, the guy who improves a lot in every aspect of his game will win the bout.”

Filipino MMA

ONE Championship signing Team Lakay protege Jhanlo Mark Sangiao 

“Jhanlo is a different breed. You can see, when he enters the (ONE) Circle. I’m very excited for him and for his new career. Expect a new breed of Team Lakay athlete when you see him. I think everybody says that he’s young, but he’s not new to this game. He’s young and very well-rounded athlete. I know that because we train with him every day and we know his capabilities.”

His competitive spirit being galvanized in the ONE Circle by the Filipino fans

“Especially when I fight here in the Philippines. When I go into the circle, the energy’s different. When you hear the Filipino crowd. The feeling is unexplainable. Not just here in the Philippines. When I fought in Thailand, you can see many Filipinos. I fought in Macau, you can hear many Filipinos when I walk into that Circle. It’s very heartwarming for me to see the support of the Filipinos.”

ONE debut and fighting alongside teammates in the United States

Debuting in ONE Championship in April 2016 as well as the mutual growth of fighter and promoter

“I can see the ONE Championship expanding, growing. For me, I’m more motivated. I’m more motivated to improve myself. Not just in MMA but of course, on how (I am) in my life also. Not just in martial arts. To improve and of course, if they’re expanding in US especially, we need to level up. Not just in martial arts. But all aspects of life.”

His desire for competing in the United States

“I would love to, man.”

Joshua Pacio continued, “For sure, I think… I wish I would fight by the end of this year and you know, if there is gonna be a US event, I would love to join.”

Timeline for returning to competition

The timeline for his return to fighting in ONE Championship

“Yeah, for me I would love to fight in August or September. Not just me but also even Danny Kingad, he has no fights for more than a year now. You know me, Danny, Kevin (Belingon), and even Stephen Loman. I would love to fight beside those guys.”

The individual momentum of seeing teammates win their fights

“I think the feeling is very different, you know. When you fight alongside your brothers. There was this time that we had like five Team Lakays in one card. The feeling is amazing. And of course, we all get the win. And that’s the most important thing. It’s amazing.”

Parting thoughts for Joshua Pacio

“Thank you sir for inviting me here. It’s a privilege. And of course, thank you to all our supporters. Who’ve been there, supported, and prayed for us. In our ups and downs, Thank you, thank you very much. Of course, don’t miss out on our future fights. Maybe by the end of this year. Don’t miss it. I’ll be back soon.”

author avatar
Dylan Bowker
I've been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I've hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I've been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I've provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I've worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.