In MMA, defeat is inevitable (unless your name is Ben Askren). Everyone loses eventually, but for a young prospect like Joshua Pacio the bitter taste of failure in his first title shot has helped him to learn, evolve, and ultimately secure a second fight with the champion.
In July of 2017, Pacio’s 11-0 record marked him out as one of the top prospects on the ONE Championship roster. He more than held his own for two rounds against strawweight king Yoshitaka Naito in Myanmar, but a mistake in the third stanza was ruthlessly punished by the Japanese submission specialist.
Pacio was submitted with a rear-naked choke. It was a crushing blow, but two year’s later he looks back on the experience as a valuable learning lesson.
“That loss taught me more about myself than any of my victories. Winning feels good, but being given the opportunity to discover my weaknesses was invaluable. I’ve learned and grown so much, I am a completely different fighter.”
The two men will rematch at the Jakarta Convention Centre on Saturday night (local time). Pacio will be the underdog again but wants to show the champion that he is not the same fighter who tapped to that rear naked choke two year’s ago,
“I respect Naito a lot as a champion, as a competitor, and as a martial artist. To be able to show him what I’ve become in the two years since I lost to him is an honor for me.”
The stakes are high for Team Lakay on Saturday because Pacio’s friend and training partner Danny Kingad is also on the card, taking on Yuka Wakamatsu. They have been preparing together in the mountains of Baguio and believe the hard work will be rewarded with a clean sweep on Saturday.
“Me and him have talked before about competing on the same card. It was one of our goals. Now, we have that chance. We are facing two very talented Japanese warriors, and we have a tough task ahead of us,” said Pacio.
Pacio’s record currently stands at 15-2. He’s won three straight fights and last time out finished Pongsiri Mitsatit with a submission that has variously been described as an inverted Kimura, a hammer lock and an arm lock. It secured him the rematch and the Filipino has a point to prove against Naito.
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“I take this as an opportunity to finally show him that I have changed so much since the last time we fought,” Pacio explains.
Pacio’s record against Japanese opponents does not make for good reading. He’s faced two of the best strawweights that country has ever produced, but both bouts have ended with the Filipino unable to escape from a rear-naked choke. Hayatao Suzuki and Naito are responsible for the two blemishes on that otherwise outstanding 15-2 record.
Pacio can’t turn back the clock. He will never be an undefeated prospect again, but what he can do is win a title in Jakarta this weekend. The 22-year-old has recovered from his setbacks and thinks the sour taste of defeat will ultimately help him to secure the sweetest of victories.
“At the end of the day, every experience is a learning experience, and you have to be humble enough to recognize that.”