MANILA, Philippines -- Reigning ONE strawweight champion Joshua "The Passion" Pacio is keeping himself in good condition in anticipation of his next title defense.
Pacio, who fights out of the famed Team Lakay stable, has not fought since successfully defending his belt against Alex Silva in January 2020 via a split decision. The COVID-19 pandemic kept him from taking on another title defense last year, and he has yet to step into the Circle in 2021.
"Nag-one year anniversary noong January 27 na walang laro," said Pacio in a recent interview. "Hanggang ngayon, wala pa din."
"Pero siyempre, we continue training. Hindi man 'yung training na hard, na parang may laban, pero at least one percent every day nagi-improve, hinahasa 'yung skills. Para hindi mangalawang," he added.
Pacio has continued his training in Benguet with Team Lakay, where he is waiting patiently for ONE Championship to call about his next fight.
"Ine-expect po natin 'yun. Lahat po kami na lumalaban sa ONE, talagang ine-expect po namin na anytime, may tatawag anytime," the 25-year-old champion said. "So, naka-ready kami."
"Siyempre, as an athlete, miss na miss na (lumaban)," he also said. "And 'yun, tuloy pa rin 'yung training para hindi matawag na ring rust sa next na laban."
While Pacio is on the sidelines, the ONE strawweight division has improved. Japanese fighter Hiroba Minowa is making his way up the standings, thanks to wins over Team Lakay's Lito Adiwang and Alex Silva, while former UFC contender Jarred Brooks also signed with the promotion.
Adiwang, despite his setback against Minowa and a bout with COVID-19, remains a possible contender as well.
"Grabe, humihigpit na 'yung strawweight division at talaga nagle-level up na every athlete," said Pacio, who won the ONE title in April 2019 against his Japanese rival, Yosuke Saruta.
"So, as a champion, 'yung trabaho lang natin is, trabaho lang talaga. We need to train, and of course 'yung goal natin is kung ano 'yung napanood niyo noong last na laban ko, sana hindi ganoon. Ibang Joshua Pacio," he added.
Even with competition in the division getting stronger and better, Pacio is still anticipating that his next fight will be against Saruta.
They have a 1-1 record against each other: the Japanese beat Pacio in September 2018 to win the title, but Pacio reclaimed his belt in their rematch.
"Nagpo-post naman 'yung ONE Championship kung sino 'yung possible na makakalaban ko, I think 'yung ranked No. 1 pa rin, si Yusuke Saruta. Tatapusin namin 'yung trilogy," said Pacio. "Pero hindi pa sure."
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