Joshua Pacio's (20-3) upcoming ONE strawweight world title defense has been a long time in the making, but that's only given him more time to prepare.
The reigning king from Team Lakay will take on No. 1-ranked contender Jarred Brooks (19-2) in the main event of ONE 164 on Saturday, December 3, with the surging American earning his right to challenge for the gold with a trio of dominant victories in the organization.
The pair were originally slated to face one another earlier in the year, and Pacio can't wait to get his hands on "The Monkey God" in front of a home crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
"The Passion" said:
"I'm very, very excited. At last, it's finally happening. It was initially set on June 3, then I thought it would be moved to September. I was just keeping myself prepared but I guess December it is.
"I think the bout being pushed back was a blessing in disguise in a sense because it gave me time to prepare more. With three weeks to go, I feel like I'm at 100 percent. I'm ready. Everything's ready. The goal has always been to complete a mixed martial artist, and I'm ready wherever this match goes."
Brooks debuted in ONE in November 2021, and even before his first appearance, he was trying to put himself on Pacio's radar.
With every victory, the confident American has ramped up his rhetoric about dethroning "The Passion" to claim the strawweight MMA belt, but the Filipino star won't get drawn into a war of words.
Instead, he just wants to stay focused on the task at hand.
"I know what he's doing is just part of his psywar. Mind games. But I respect him as an athlete. I know he respects me as an athlete too. I should be emotionless coming into this fight, because I know he wants me to be emotional. If I get too emotional, he might catch me with something."
Pacio ready for Brooks' wrestling offense
Brooks' immense wrestling has been the biggest factor in his impressive run in ONE, with a trio of victories over top-ranked opponents.
But while Pacio knows he has to be ready for his opponent's takedowns and grappling, he believes his own preparation will put him in strong position to overcome any challenges.
The Filipino said:
"Of course his wrestling will give me problems, but I've trained for it. We're ready for it. But expect me to be a problem for him as well.
"I have tools that I haven't shown yet. I know this is going to be a tough fight and I'll be able to show the new things that I've learned through the years."
Pacio has held the ONE strawweight world title since April 2019, racking up three successful defenses over the division's most dangerous challengers.
And while Brooks is in peak form and expecting to claim the belt, "The Passion" wants to remind him – and fans across the globe – why he's been at the top for so long.
The 26-year-old added:
"This fight will all boil down to who wants it more. I'm the champion here, and I'll prove that to him.
"I'm not looking for a finish. I'm not looking for a knockout or submission. I'm looking to showcase the well-improved aspects of the game, and at the end of the day, my hand will be raised."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.