MANILA, Philippines -- As Team Lakay welcomes a new generation of fighters into its ranks, the man who used to be the "bunso" of the team is ready to embrace a leadership role.
Joshua Pacio, the last remaining Filipino to hold a title in ONE Championship, will be the bridge from past to the future as Team Lakay strives to keep raising the bar in the promotion.
The 25-year-old, who holds the ONE Strawweight title, has welcomed the new responsibility and is excited for the future of their camp.
"Of course, we are very happy with where we are right now and I really believe that this is the fruit of our hard toiling," he said. "Still, we intend to prove that we're here to stay."
As he goes from "bunso" to "manong," Pacio touts the up-and-coming talents in Team Lakay that he believes will become big names in the future.
"I'm just so excited for everyone to see what my teammates are made of," he said.
"I'm excited to see Stephen Loman, Danny Kingad, Jeremy Pacatiw, Jenelyn Olsim, and Jhanlo Mark Sangiao get back inside the ONE Circle and really show what they can do because I have no doubt that they will become champions, too, in the near future," he added.
Yet Pacio is also aware that it all starts with him, as the face of Team Lakay's new generation. This gives the fighter even more motivation heading into his title defense on Friday against his archrival, Yosuke "The Ninja" Saruta, at ONE: Revolution at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
It will be the third encounter between Pacio and Saruta, with each fighter holding one win.
"Personally, I don't think that a third bout against Saruta is necessary after what happened in our last encounter," said Pacio.
The Filipino soundly defeated Saruta at ONE: Roots of Honor in April 2018, landing a head kick that sent the Japanese to sleep and allowed Pacio to regain the ONE strawweight title.
"In our last bout, it was a clear victory for us," he said of the match, which came just three months removed from Saruta's stunning split decision win at ONE: Eternal Glory in January.
But Saruta recovered from his loss to become the No. 1 contender in the division, and Pacio has no qualms about taking on the bout in order to silence any doubts on who deserves to be champion.
"You will see a more calculated version of me," he said. "This time around, I will give my all to perform and enforce every single skill that we have been working on."
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