Reigning ONE Championship strawweight king Joshua Pacio became the lone Filipino to be included in ESPN’s Under-25 list of mixed martial arts fighters of 2020.
Representing the Philippines and the famed Benguet stable Team Lakay, ESPN placed Pacio in No. 24 because of his “sterling résumé.”
The 24-year-old Pacio, who will celebrate his birthday in January, still has a lot to offer at the table with his young MMA career.
The two-time and current strawweight champion holds a strong 17-3 record, only losing once in the last three years.
Pacio first took the strawweight belt after a unanimous decision win against Yoshitaka Naito of Japan in September 2018.
But Yosuke Saruta, another Japanese fighter, stripped off Pacio’s title after a split decision win in January 2019.
Three months later in April, the Team Lakay stalwart came back strong and knocked out Saruta with a lethal head kick to reclaim the strawweight championship.
Since then, Pacio rode on a three-win match streak including back-to-back title defense against compatriot Rene Catalan (arm-triangle choke) in November 2019 and Alex Silva (split decision) January this year.
Aside from Pacio, world champion siblings Angela (No. 11) and Christian Lee (No. 15), and Sage Northcutt (No. 25) are the ONE Championship stars named in the list.
This was ESPN’s second annual list of the top 25 mixed martial artists under the age of 25, recognizing fighters from different promotions such as UFC, ONE Championship, Bellator and Elite MMA Championship.
Completing the Top 5 are Jimmy Crute (No. 1), Edmen Shahbazyan (No. 2), Song Yadong (No. 3), Brendan Allen of UFC (No. 5) and Bellator’s Aaron Pico (No. 4).