JAKARTA, Indonesia — In a highly-anticipated main event, ONE World Title challenger Joshua Pacio of Team Lakay of the Philippines defeated grappling wizard title-holder Yoshitaka Naito of Japan in a unanimous decision Saturday, Sept. 22. as the new ONE Strawweight World Champion. The ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES featuring many other martial arts fighters before the main event was held at the packed Jakarta Convention Center.
In accepting the title, Pacio recalled Typhoon Ompong that struck his hometown Baguio City, Benguet, and the Cordilleras the previous week. In a predominantly Muslim country, he expressed his thanks to his Lord Jesus Christ. He also thanked ONE Championship and his coach Mark Sangiao, who was at the event.
“A lot of places were hit hard. Many people died and some are still missing. This is for all of them. I know that the Cordilleras will come back and rise again soon as one,” Pacio said.
Pacio waited for two years before his rematch with Naito. In 2016, he fell short of victory against Naito, one of the most successful martial artists to have emerged from Japan. In just four short years debuting in 2012, Natio conquered the notoriously competitive Japanese martial arts scene, capturing the Shooto Flyweight Title. He captured the ONE Strawweight World Championship on two occasions, defeating former champions Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and Alex Silva.
Pacio has been working on his skills and improving with every bout riding on a three-bout winning streak since before this rematch with Naito.
“This is no doubt the biggest fight of my professional career. I am a completely different fighter now compared to before when we first met. I think I will surprise him a lot with how much I have changed,” Pacio said.
He added: “I have worked extremely hard with my team, with my coach, on developing a fight-winning strategy for this Saturday night. All that’s left is for me to execute. Winning the world title means a lot to me. It will give me a chance to provide a better life for myself and for my family. I have the only victory on my mind in this bout.”
Pacio of Baguio City was inspired to take up martial arts ever since he was 12 years old. After an undefeated amateur career, Pacio soon made his professional debut, where he went 6-0 before making it to the global stage of ONE Championship.
Naito showcased his overwhelming grappling skills to consistently bring Pacio to the ground, controlling the action on the canvas late in the contest. Although Naito managed to showcase his wrestling, it was Pacio who showed striking superiority for the majority of the bout. Pacio repeatedly connected on Naito with crisp, clean combinations throughout the championship contest while exhibiting solid takedown and grappling defense.
Although he acknowledges Pacio as a “very talented kid and a great martial artist and that one day, he will be a champion,” Naito said it was not Pacio’s time yet. “Right now, it’s my time, said Naito before the fight.”
“He will have his chance, but I am in the best condition of my career and I fully expect to walk out of the area this Saturday, with title fully intact,” boasted Naito.
Meanwhile, in the undercard event, in a battle between two outstanding flyweights, Team Lakay flyweight champion and former ONE World Title Challenger Danny “The King” Kingad of the Philippines, overcame a spirited effort from Japanese newcomer Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu, earning a unanimous decision.
Kingad, the 22-year-old Wushu champion, was in trouble for the majority of the opening round after being tagged by Wakamatsu’s hard right straight and a follow-up knee strike. Avoiding further danger in the stand-up exchanges, Kingad resorted to his wrestling in the succeeding rounds where he found his leverage by shooting for high-impact takedowns and threatening with various submissions. In the end, the three cage-side judges awarded the victory to Kingad unanimously.