The much awaited rematch between reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, 34, of Chiba, Japan and Joshua “The Passion” Pacio, 22, of Baguio City is finally happening. Despite the impression that the Japanese champ will still have his hands full in the rematch, he believes that his cage experience will spell the difference and history will repeat itself.
On October 7, 2016, Pacio challenged Naito for the ONE Strawweight World Championship at “ONE: State of Warriors.” Representing Team Lakay, the Baguio City native failed to dethrone the Japanese champ.
On September 22, 2018, Pacio will challenge Naito again for the ONE Strawweight World Championship at “ONE: Conquest of Heroes,” which will take place at Jakarta Convention Center in Jakarta, Indonesia. It will be the main event of the evening.
“I will do what I need to do this coming September, which is to win,” Naito declared. “I have the championship experience. I can do it again.”
“It’s going to be the same story,” the defending champion added. “I will still be the champion.”
This does not mean, however, Naito is underestimating Pacio. The Japanese champ describes the Team Lakay fighter as a “young, agile and tenacious” fighter.
“I can’t forget every bit of what transpired in that match nearly two years ago,” Naito recalled his first bout against Pacio. “He really wanted to win the world title. It was tough.”
Naito might have won the battle against Pacio. But the Chiba native encountered perhaps the most difficult test of his professional career as he had to squeeze himself through the eye of a needle to retain the gold-plated strap.
Before pulling off a come-from-behind victory by submitting Pacio with a rear-naked choke in the third round, Naito had to endure two grueling rounds. The Japanese submission specialist admitted that the Team Lakay fighter pushed him to his limit, describing the bout as a life-ending experience.
“Joshua is a tough opponent,” Naito said of his Filipino challenger. “I really thought I was going to die. I was very tired.”
Meanwhile, here is a recent interview with Pacio: