HARD as Joshua Pacio's title defense of his ONE Strawweight World Championship was against Alex Silva at ONE: Fire and Fury, it was incomparable to the uphill battle he had to face heading into Friday's event at Mall of Asia.
Three weeks away from the fight, the 24-year-old fighter had to endure a bevy of illnesses as he struggled to get himself in peak condition.
"For the past three weeks, nagkakasakit ako. Akala ko makakaapekto yun sa conditioning ko," he said.
Also, that stretch saw him lose his grandfather Valentino Pacio, who succumbed to diabetes last January 12.
But rather than stay in the darkness of his gloom, Pacio used those struggles as his motivation to keep himself at the top of the promotion's strawweight division as he dedicated the fight to his late lolo.
"Inisip ko mas maganda na rin kasi di na siya mahihirapan. Nag-rest na lang siya kay God at para sa kanya ito," said the Team Lakay stalwart who retained his title via split decision.
Part of that success is credited to him having his full trust to coach Mark Sangiao, who kept him in check despite the difficulties he's had.
"Mindset lang talaga ang nagtulak sa akin at faith kay God," he said. "Yung teammates ko sabi nga, hardwork pays off. Nakakapagod, pero enjoy pa rin. Blessing pa rin."