TEAM Lakay has long envisioned this new generation of fighters from its stable, and who better to lead the parade than the reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua "The Passion" Pacio?
The 25-year-old is the last remaining champion from the Philippines, and a fitting bridge from the past to the future as the Filipino fighters strive to remain as one of the best signed under the ONE Championship banner.
Pacio, for his part, has welcomed that torchbearer role and is beaming with excitement with what the future holds for 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. Still, we intend to prove that we're here to stay," he said, slowly shifting from being the bunso to a manong for his fellow young turks in Team Lakay.
"I'm just so excited for everyone to see what my teammates are made of. 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."
Pacio, though, knows that aside from the responsibility of being a senior in their camp, he also has to keep his spot as the top dog in his weight class, one he will try to maintain as he closes his trilogy of fights against archrival Yosuke "The Ninja" Saruta at ONE: REVOLUTION in September 24 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
It's a fight Pacio has long wanted, yet one he understood must be done given the history between them and their respective spots in the ladder.
"Personally, I don't think that a third bout against Saruta is necessary after what happened in our last encounter," said the champion, alluding to his stellar fourth round knockout win over the Japanese at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR back in April 2019.
Pacio reclaimed the belt in thunderous fashion, connecting with a killer head kick that put Saruta to sleep to once again become the ONE Strawweight World Champion.
"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.
Saruta, though, has crawled his way back to no. 1 contender status.
He has rebuilt his stock after his second round knockout win over Daichi Kitakata at ONE: CENTURY in October 2019, and followed it up with a unanimous decision win over former champion Yoshitaka "Nobita" Naito at ROAD TO ONE 3: TOKYO FIGHT NIGHT in September last year.
"I see that he has occupied that no. 1 spot in the ONE Athlete Rankings, so I agree that he deserves to face me one more time," Pacio said.
With that being said, though, Pacio couldn't help but not look at his rearview, keeping his eyes out on his next possible contenders.
Although he knows that it's still up to ONE Championship to decide who those next in line would be, he couldn't help but play the role of a fantasy booker, especially with the amount of talent chomping on his tail.
"It's still ONE who has to answer who they think is the most deserving, but from my part, I'd like to see a match between Yoshitaka Naito and Bokang Masunyane, and the winner of that can be the next contender," he remarked, fantasizing a matchup between the no. 2 and no. 3 ranked athletes in the ONE rankings for strawweights.
It doesn't mean, however, that Pacio isn't taking this upcoming bout seriously.
Truth be told, he wants to put all the doubts into rest in this third fight against Saruta as he attempts to showcase the most complete Joshua Pacio the world has ever seen.
And it's certainly better than the one who scored a split decision win over Alex "Little Rock" Silva at ONE: FIRE AND FURY in January 2020 -- his last title defense to date.
"You will see a more calculated version of me," he testified. "I know that I wasn't really able to show everything that I can do, but this time around, I will give my all to perform and enforce every single skill that we have been working on."
"You can expect a more audacious Joshua Pacio to take the stage this time out."