JOSHUA Pacio may be a two-time ONE Strawweight World Champion, but the 23-year-old fighter knows that he's still far from the peak of his career.
That's the Igorot warrior's response to people branding him that he's already at the top of his game following him reclaiming the belt from Yosuke Saruta on Friday at ONE: Roots of Honor.
"Maraming nagsasabi na nasa pinnacle na ako ng career ko, pero marami pang years na darating kasi hindi pa ito ang peak ko," he said. "Marami pa akong matututunan at marami pa akong kakainin. Nagle-level up ang lahat ng mga kalaban ko so kailangan ko rin mag-level up."
Pacio cited this road to redemption against Saruta as one of those learning experiences as he picked himself back up from that controversial split decision in Jakarta back in January to once again prove that he's the best in the promotion's strawweight division.
"In our first bout, I think I had lots of errors. It was 50-50, some think I won, some don't. Pero yun ang sinabi ni coach Mark (Sangiao), na you need to focus and when you enter the cage, you have to be 101-percent confident. Don't hesitate to throw combinations and that's what I did," he said.
"This time, I didn't leave it to the judges' hands."
Pacio was going for an overhead kick when his knee landed on Saruta's head when the Japanese contender ducked too low, ending the match 2:43 into the fourth round.
It was a sweet triumph for Pacio who only avenged his defeat but also proved that Team Lakay is here to stay despite the bad stretch in the first quarter of the year, where its champions lost all of their titles.
"Speechless ako at napakasaya. Wala nang duda ang mga tao. Satisfying win ito, hindi lang para sa akin kundi para sa team ko. We worked hard for it," he said.
It begs to ask now, what's next for Pacio?
Truthfully, there's a lot of options, none more obvious than fellow Filipino Rene Catalan, who is riding a six-fight win streak.
But Pacio said that the decision is not his' and will just be ready for the next challenger to his crown.
"Para sa akin, kung sino man ang ibigay ng ONE Championship, I'll be ready. Kahit yung kung sino ang maraming winning streak. Depende na sa kanila yun," he said.