Ivanildo “Monstrinho” Delfino will finally get his chance to shine on the global stage next Friday, 31 January.
It has been a long journey to the world’s largest martial arts organization, which has been filled with injuries, heartbreak, and tragedy. But now, Delfino appears stronger and more determined than ever.
Before he makes his grand premiere in the Mall Of Asia Arena, take this opportunity to learn about the flyweight known as “Monstrinho.”
The Fisherman’s Lifestyle
Delfino was born in Soure, which is located on Marajó Island in northern Brazil, to a loving father named Oscar and mother named Maria.
Both of his parents were involved in the fishing industry and made açaí, a traditional drink in the South American country.
The jobs were demanding, which meant the young Brazilian, his brother Josué, and his sisters Carla and Mili often provided assistance.
“I was raised in Caju-Una village, which is one of the beaches in Soure,” he begins. “Then we moved to my father’s community Mangueiras, located in Salvaterra, another county of the island. My parents were fishermen, and I used to help them.”
When he was 10 years old, his parents divorced and went their separate ways. While his brother and sisters returned to their old hometown with his mom, Delfino remained in Mangueiras with his dad.
“My mother went back to Soure with my siblings, and I stayed with my father. I liked helping him with the fishing,” Delfino remembers.
“We used to paddle for 12 hours to get to the place where we fished. We stayed 30 days fishing, so it was pretty good. And during the açaí harvest (between August and November), our day started at 3am and finished at 5pm.”
First Steps Into Martial Arts
Delfino had a taste for martial arts ever since his childhood.
By the age of eight, he learned Marajoara – a grappling art similar to wrestling that is learned, and practiced, by the locals in his community – and competed against other boys on a dirt floor.
“As a child, my father used to put me in matches against kids my age, sometimes even older and bigger than me. I beat them, but I also took some damage here and there,” he says with a chuckle.
Though “Monstrinho” had his dad’s full support for his martial arts endeavors, the young Brazilian pushed them aside when he returned to Soure and finished school.
Following graduation, he picked up a full-time job and it seemed like there was no turning back. But whenever he returned home from work, he often passed by a local Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy and watched the students drill various techniques.
Delfino, then 19 years old, was mesmerized and decided to join the dojo. He studied under master Sandro Braga, who helped the teenager make massive strides. The Soure native’s commitment to mastering “the gentle art” soon became apparent, and even those closest to him noticed.
“I started training, and a friend of mine thought I was dedicated and invited me to train in Belém,” the Brazilian recalls. “I went there with no expectations. It helped me to have faith in myself and [made me] believe that I could follow my dreams.”
When Delfino went to Belém to train at the Marajo Brothers gym, he started to practice mixed martial arts and quickly became hooked on the sport.
Homesickness And Tragedy
Being far from family and the comforts of home was not easy for Delfino.
However, he was willing to make that sacrifice because he believed martial arts could give both him and his loved ones a better life.
“It was really hard for me to leave my town and my family, for sure. What made me surpass this was my will to give them a comfortable life,” he confesses.
“Every fight I won, I believed more in the choice I had made and saw I was on the right path towards accomplishing my dreams.”
In August 2019, however, one of his biggest nightmares came to life.
Delfino’s father was playing a soccer game when he suddenly suffered a heart attack and passed away.
That was especially difficult for “Monstrinho,” as he and his dad were very close. In fact, the family patriarch continued to support his son’s martial arts endeavors well into adulthood and attended every single one of his mixed martial arts bouts.
“I lost my father recently,” he says. “It looked like he knew I was going to be a fighter since I was a child. It really messed me up because my family is my biggest treasure. They are my biggest supporters and my greatest incentive.”
Seizing The Opportunity
In April 2015, Delfino was ready to make his professional mixed martial arts debut and he took the local scene by storm.
After winning his first seven bouts, the Soure native earned the chance to compete in Jungle Fight – considered the biggest organization in Brazil – and challenged for the company’s flyweight championship. “Monstrinho” would submit Antonio Macedo in the first round to claim the title belt.
That victory led him to ONE Championship. The undefeated Brazilian was originally scheduled to make his promotional debut against Wada in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix last year, but injuries derailed him.
Now healed, the Brazilian is ready to finally meet Wada in the Philippine capital and begin his chase towards the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
“What brought me to ONE was a matter of seizing the opportunities that life gives us,” he says.
“It is an honor to be part of ONE. I am really happy to show my art, and represent my city and my country. I feel like all I have done has been worth it. Now, it is time to enjoy the moment and move along with my journey in search of my goals.”