ONE: As Pacio improves, Naito also ‘way tougher’ mentally this time
After his first career loss, ONE strawweight champion Yoshitaka Naito emerged a different fighter.
The Japanese mixed martial artist dropped a unanimous decision loss to Alex Silva in 2017 and it needed some time to shrug off the bitter feeling of defeat as 12 straight victories.
“After losing to Alex, I went through a little bit of a depression,” said Naito through a Japanese interpreter during the open workout at Jakarta Muay Thai on Thursday.” My teammates helped me and I went to see other athletes and I got back my motivation.
In a rematch just five months after their previous meeting, Naito regained his belt with a grindout split decision over Silva and he is facing Philippine bet Joshua Pacio in a championship bout on Saturday in ONE: Conquest of Heroes with another layer of mental toughness.
Team Lakay’s Joshua Pacio and Yoshitaka Naito face off at ONE: Conquest of Heroes open workout today pic.twitter.com/eqwyKlxnIo
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“After a loss, an athlete comes back really strong and mentally, I’m way tougher than before,” said Naito. “Even if Joshua improved, I also improved.”
The 34-year-old Naito conquered Pacio in 2016, pouncing on a mistake to quell the Filipino fighter’s bid for the title with a rear naked choke in the third round.
Since then, both fighters went on to build their resumes with Pacio going to 4-1 in his succeeding fights including a stunning takedown of Pongsiri Mitsatit last July with what he called a “passion lock.”
“Joshua got a lot of experience and I did too. He’s definitely a better fighter and it’s going to be a tough fight but I will do my best to win,” Naito said.
Naito is aware that striking has been his weakest point, something that Pacio plans to exploit, but he’s ready show what he has been working on the past two years.
“I totally understand that Josh has better striking than me, but I’ve been practicing how to avoid the striking and I’ve also been training on it a lot and I want to show that in the upcoming fight.”
Always looking for a quick finish, Naito admitted that it’s going to be easier said than done especially against the Team Lakay fighter.
“I always try to finish quickly but it doesn’t always go as I wish. It’s going be a tough fight but it will end in submission.”
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