A DETERMINED Joshua Pacio is set to prove to the world he is in for a long haul on keeping the ONE Championship world strawweight belt around his waist.
Skipping the recent holiday season for his intense training camp, Pacio gets another acid test when he defends his title against Japanese Yosuke Saruta in the main event of ONE: Eternal Glory on January 19 at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Pacio was earlier scheduled to defend his title against Hayato Suzuki, however, the 22–year–old Team Lakay champion said they are seeing the challenger as one of the toughest fighters he will have to face, having only been defeated once in 23 fights with two draws.
“Saruta is a well-rounded fighter and a champion also so our team is preparing me in all aspects of MMA to be able to counter his style who is a known grappler,” said Pacio.
Saruta is a veteran in the Asian martial arts scene and is himself a tremendous striker. In addition, he’s also a terrific wrestler, something that Pacio will have to find a way to deal with.
Nicknamed “Tobizaru No. 2,” Saruta made his ONE Championship debut last December 7 at ONE: Destiny of Champions. The 31-year-old shocked former world champion Alex Silva, winning via three-round unanimous decision.
Aside from having one of the best ground game, Saruta also boasts of heavy hands.
Considered a martial arts prodigy, Pacio competed three times in 2018, scoring two quick submission victories – including “Passion Lock” which earned him the ONE Championship submission of the year – and then notched the biggest win of his career by defeating Yoshitaka Naito to capture the undisputed strawweight world title.
“My main goal, of course, is to defend my title to the best of my ability,” Pacio added.
Also in the main card is a highly anticipated rematch between Team Lakay’s Edward Kelly and Singapore’s Christian Lee.
Lee and Kelly first met at ONE: Beyond the Horizon in September 2017. However, their bout ended in controversy when Lee was disqualified for the inadvertent use of a suplex maneuver.
Lee is the younger brother of ONE women’s atomweight world champion Angela Lee and is one of the promotion’s top featherweight talents.
Kelly trains alongside a collection of ONE world champions including Pacio, Eduard Folayang, Geje Eustaquio, and Kevin Belingon.
Both Lee and Kelly aim to shoot up the ranks, and a victory for either man in this highly-anticipated match-up would certainly move the winner up the ladder. (Roderick Osis)