• Joshua Pacio is excited about the title eliminator between Jarred Brooks and Bokang Masunyane
  • Pacio weighs in on Brooks and Masunyane's notable strengths heading into the fight
  • The champion shares his bold prediction on the fight

To say that ONE strawweight champion Joshua Pacio is paying close attention to the upcoming bout between American standout Jarred Brooks and South Africa’s very own Bokang Masunyane is a massive understatement.

Brooks and Masunyane are set to square off against each other in a strawweight world title eliminator on the supporting card formerly billed as “ONE: Reloaded,” which will take place at the 12,000-capacity Singapore Indoor Stadium on April 22.

“This fight excites me [because] two explosive athletes will collide. I’m happy to face whoever wins this fight,” Pacio said about the match-up in an exclusive interview with International Business Times sports editor and combat sports analyst Nissi Icasiano.

Brooks, who needs no introduction to mixed martial arts fans worldwide due to his stints in the UFC, Bellator and Rizin, has been nothing short of impressive since making his promotional debut under the ONE Championship banner.

“The Monkey God” has won two-straight fights in the Singapore-based organization to occupy the No. 2 seat in the strawweight rankings, submitting Pacio’s teammate Lito Adiwang with an arm-triangle choke in the second round of their November 2021 duel and then edging out Japanese spitfire Hiroba Minowa by way of unanimous decision this past January.

On the other hand, the No. 1-rated Masunyane has likewise been on a tear since joining the outfit in 2019, outpointing Ryuto Sawada via unanimous decision in his maiden assignment before authoring a 37-second knockout victory over former title contender Rene Catalan in December 2020.

However, the South African spitfire has not seen action since his highlight-reel win versus Catalan. For Pacio, the nearly two-year layoff will not hinder Masunyane from sporting his best foot on April 22.

“A long layoff depends on the athlete, and I think Bokang is hungry for a title shot. I expect Bokang in his best condition for this title eliminator,” the 26-year-old champion from Baguio City, Philippines shared.

Bokang Masunyane
South Africa's Bokang Masunyane prepares for a fight inside the ONE Championship cage. ONE Championship

But during Masunyane’s absence, Brooks fought tooth and nail to be noticed and overtake fighters in the talent-filled division as apart from winning pivotal matches, he repeatedly called Pacio out in almost every interview that the Warsaw, Indiana native took part of.

Most recently, Pacio was once again on the receiving end of Brooks’ smack talk as the American used a Filipino derogatory term to castigate the Team Lakay representative.

While fans and pundits alike thought that Brooks would get an outright shot at the gold-plated belt following his conquest of Minowa a few months ago and the fanfare he created, Pacio begs to disagree and believes that ONE Championship made the right call in booking a cage encounter to determine his next challenger.

“He (Brooks) is good at talking. That’s why a lot of people thought that he would get an outright title shot. Brooks has two wins and Bokang has two wins as well. Brooks wants a shot at my throne, then he needs to fight Bokang who’s the No. 1-ranked strawweight at the moment,” Pacio explained.

Jarred Brooks
Jarred Brooks celebrates his win over Lito Adiwang last year at ONE Championship. ONE Championship

Pacio took time to highlight both fighters’ best attributes heading into the highly-anticipated clash on April 22.

“I think Bokang is more athletic than Brooks, but Brooks has the experience. I think his experience will be his leverage in the fight,” the champion stated.

When asked for his fearless forecast, Pacio expects Brooks and Masunyane to go full three rounds without fully disclosing who he thinks will come out triumphant.

“This fight will go to a decision, knowing the caliber of these two warriors and knowing that the winner will get a crack at my gold,” he stressed.

Pacio—who made his last appearance inside the Circle when he stopped arch-nemesis Yosuke Saruta in the first round of their September 2021 rubber match—expressed his readiness to stake his crown against either Brooks or Masunyane.

“As a champion, it’s my job to fight whoever is in front of me. Whoever wins—whether it’s Brooks or Bokang, I am ready,” he declared.

The event now entitled ONE: Eersel vs Sadikovic is headlined by Regian Eersel defending his lightweight kickboxing title opposite Arian Sadikovic. Meanwhile, Smilla Sundell and Jackie Buntan will go head-to-head for the inaugural women’s strawweight Muay Thai championship in the co-feature attraction.

Joshua Pacio
Filipino MMA fighters Joshua Pacio and Eduard Folayang celebrate inside the ONE Championship cage. ONE Championship