MACAU – Young fighters tend to be overwhelmed by the fast-paced life of a full-time mixed martial artist.
Yet here is the 21-year old Joshua Pacio (11-2) calmly answering questions a day before he enters the ONE Championship cage anew when he takes on the dangerous Hayato Suzuki (16-0-2) in the bright lights of the Cotai Arena on Saturday.
Over the past year, the young Team Lakay prodigy has fought thrice, one a championship bout against would-be flyweight champion Yoshitaka Naito and another against former titlist Dejdamrong Sor Amunuaysirichoke.
Instead of giving in to the pressure, Pacio is thankful for the trust and the opportunity given to him by the organization – and those are things that he doesn’t plan on wasting.
“The rise to the top was so fast but this wouldn’t happen had it not been for the opportunities given to me by ONE. That’s why I’m just so grateful,” Pacio said in Filipino.
“If it wasn’t for that title shot against (Yoshitaka) Naito, I wouldn’t be here. Even if I lost, that was still big for my experience,” he added.
Aside from experience, Pacio credited his advanced maturity to how his older brothers in Team Lakay guides him on every step of the way.
Training in a gym that’s home to the ONE lightweight champion Eduard Folayang and trained by SEA Games gold medalist Mark Sangiao, there’s a gold mine of wisdom in that storied camp in Baguio.
Despite being relatively younger than most of the opponents that he has faced, Pacio isn’t keen on backing down knowing that he’s been trained and handled well by some of the best – and wisest – fighters in the country.
“There will be times where I’d just look at a fighter’s face and be scared. But this is a fight, I know that they are human too,” Pacio continued.
“They always tell me to look at my opponents as humans and not indestructible machines.”
But his next opponent in Suzuki is the closest to an ‘indestructible’ machine that he’ll be facing.
The Japanese stud hasn’t lost a fight in 18 bouts, winning 16 while drawing two.
To make things harder for Pacio, his opponent has fought in Japan all his life, leaving Pacio and his team with nothing but Youtube highlight videos to study the debuting Japanese.
Based from what he saw, he knows that it won’t be easy. But he’ll be ready no matter what.
“He’s very impressive. He has 16-0 record. I watched his highlights on Youtube and I saw that he’s heavy handed. He knocked somebody out with a jab,” said Pacio.
“He’s also a good wrestler but this is MMA. Anything can happen,” he added.
Being so close to winning the flyweight title against Yoshitaka Naito nine months ago, Pacio knows that this is his biggest opportunity to put himself back in the title picture.
This time, he isn’t taking any chances. He’s going big.
“If I win here, I feel like I deserve another title shot. I feel like this is a challenge that ONE has given me to see how much I have improved as a fighter.”