Every generation of mixed martial artists has their idols. These are the heroes to be looked up to, continuously spurring them on to train and compete.
For Team Lakay’s Joshua Pacio, he has the luxury of having ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang in the gym to inspire him every single day. However, despite being just 21, Pacio already hopes to become a similar figure for the next batch of Filipino warriors coming up the ranks.
When he takes to the cage to battle Grachan Flyweight Champion Hayato Suzuki at ONE: KINGS AND CONQUERORS on 5 August in Macao, there will be plenty of youngsters with their eyes glued to the screens, taking inspiration from the strawweight contender.
“Team Lakay is breeding entire generations of fighters,” Pacio reveals. “When the coaches like Eduard (Folayang) are done fighting, we are the next ones. And when we are done fighting, the young guns are the next ones that will represent the country.
“I am very happy to share my knowledge and skills,” he continues, clearly happy to take on the job of role model, just as the likes of Folayang were to him, when he first stepped into the gym at the tender age of 13.
Of course, the easiest way to inspire is to be successful. Pacio has that chance, not just to set an example for his juniors at Team Lakay, but the whole of the Philippines.
With a professional record of 9-1, with the lone blemish coming from his first attempt at taking the ONE Strawweight World Title from Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, Pacio is well-placed to get his second crack at the belt. If he can get by Suzuki at the Cotai Arena, that is.
Japan’s Suzuki, who holds an undefeated 16-0-2 record, enters the contest as the more experienced competitor, and with a similar style to the current kingpin of the division. The Ibaraki athlete has 11 finishes amongst his 16 victories, showing both submission prowess and knockout power.
“My opponent is undefeated, but I have fought tougher guys. I am excited to go in there and welcome Suzuki to ONE Championship,” Pacio says, relishing the opportunity to take on such high-level opposition. Needless to say, he firmly believes in the skills he brings to the table.
The Filipino got back to winning ways with a hard-fought decision victory over former titleholder Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke in March, helping to regain some of the momentum he lost following a third-round defeat to Naito last October.
Against Amnuaysirichoke, he showed the noticeable improvements to his overall game, albeit in a match-up that was stylistically different to the task at hand. After all, the Thai warrior is an elite striker and not a grappler, being a multiple-time Muay Thai world champion.
Now with Team Lakay’s athletes more successful than ever, and confidence at an all-time high, the stage is set for the emerging idol known as "The Passion” to stake his claim for gold once again.
It will not be an easy night on 5 August, especially against a decorated and skilful talent such as Suzuki. But Pacio wouldn’t have it any other way, as it is a necessary step in his quest to become the ONE Strawweight World Champion, and become the next Filipino national hero.