MANILA, Philippines -- After contracting COVID-19 earlier this year, Team Lakay stars Joshua Pacio and Lito Adiwang were glad to make full recoveries and get back inside the ONE Circle.
Both Adiwang and Pacio were in action on Friday at ONE: Revolution, with Adiwang racking up a second straight win by outpointing Hexigetu in a strawweight showdown. Pacio, meanwhile, overwhelmed rival Yosuke Saruta to win by technical knockout and retain the ONE strawweight title.
For both fighters, it was a relief to make successful returns from long layoffs.
"After our setbacks, the COVID and a few canceled matches, I'm quite hungry to go back again and fight in the Circle," said Adiwang. "I know that COVID hit me quite bad, but that's the thing, I just blocked that in my mind."
"I'm well now, I'm ready to go, and I missed competing, that's why," he added.
Adiwang's bout against Hexigetu was his first since a second round stoppage victory over Namiki Kawahara in January. The "Thunder Kid" was supposed to fight in April against Jarred Books, but tested positive for COVID-19.
Pacio, who also contracted COVID-19 in April, said it was "very, very satisfying" to have made another successful title defense. "The Passion" was out of action for a year and eight months, having last fought in January 2020 when he outpointed Alex Silva to retain his title.
"There's a lot of challenges last year, pandemic, lockdowns. I got injured and earlier this year, I got this COVID-19. I was locked down for four to five weeks. (It was) very hard," admitted Pacio.
"Recovering from that sickness (was) very hard. I just thanked God for everything, for his blessings. I'm here, 100% healthy, and yeah. Thank you that we got the win," he added.
Pacio showed no sign of rust from his layoff.
Against a familiar opponent in Saruta, he displayed his striking prowess, catching a leg kick by Saruta and landing a picture perfect overhand right that staggered the Japanese.
Pacio swarmed Saruta from there, catching his foe with a left hand before unloading a barrage of strikes that forced the referee to stop the contest.
"I think for me, this COVID made me tough, tougher than ever. And it was hard, like four to five weeks, but you know, we survived," said Pacio.
"We are fighters not just in the Circle but in real life, so I am tough, and I have a world champion mindset in me, that's why I'm world champion now," he stressed.