Dayane Cardoso’s Journey From The Amazon To The Bright Lights Of ONE Championship

Dayane Cardoso before battling at ONE 156

Brazilian slugger Dayane “Day Monster” Cardoso has come a long way from her humble beginnings in the interior of the Amazon rainforest.

On April 21 at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium – almost one year after her triumphant ONE debut against former World Title challenger Ayaka Miura – the 26-year-old strawweight will look to make it 2-0 in the organization when she faces Chinese star Meng Bo.

With another victory at ONE Fight Night 9: Nong-O vs. Haggerty on Prime Video in Bangkok, Thailand, Cardoso could put herself one massive step closer to a shot at reigning strawweight MMA queen Xiong Jing Nan.

Life On The Interior

Before she was a ONE rising star, Cardoso worked alongside her parents, helping the family make a living. 

Looking back on her upbringing, she told

“My childhood was spent helping my parents in the fields. I started helping them when I was 11 years old. My family used to cultivate the land and plant bananas, cassava, and produce tapioca flour. And we would sell according to the harvest of each product. It was from there that we took our family’s livelihood.”

The youngest of five, Cardoso lived deep in the Amazon – over five hours by boat to the nearest city. 

Naturally, she knew what hard work and hard living meant from an early age.

She said:

“As I was the youngest, I ended up having some privileges compared to my brothers. But those who are born in the interior end up learning from a very early age to have the responsibilities of grown-ups.”

Growing up, the young Brazilian showed an inclination for sports. In fact, she displayed a certain toughness that would serve her well in her future career as a professional fighter.

Cardoso said:

“I was always very shy and quiet. I liked going to school because I knew I would play soccer there. And since I played with the boys, and I was very good, I ended up being respected by them. I wasn’t bullied. The boys knew that if I got angry, they would be beaten (laughs).”

Becoming ‘Day Monster’

At 19, Cardoso moved to the city of Autazes where she found martial arts and earned the nickname she carries today.

After growing up dreaming of playing soccer, the Brazilian walked into a Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu academy. The decision would prove life-changing.

Cardoso said:

“That’s when my dreams started to change. Before, I wanted to be a soccer player, but after I started training, I saw in martial arts a greater chance of changing my life.”

After six months of training, the Carioca Academy athlete won her first Muay Thai bout, knocking out two women in one night.

That fateful performance, along with the thunderous power the strawweight displayed in the gym, earned her the “Day Monster” nickname from one of her teammates.

Cardoso said:

“Who gave me this nickname was Dr. Jorge, who trains at the gym. He’s a doctor and he always thought I was very strong. One day, jokingly, he nicknamed me ‘monster’ and the nickname stuck. 

“I came from the countryside, I used to play with big animals like bulls, for example. My (martial arts) master always joked with me saying that in the countryside I knocked down bulls. I think that’s where my strength comes from. And I do believe that this nickname intimidates my opponents, because when they know they are going to fight ‘Day Monster,’ I believe they tremble.”

Fighting For Her Dreams

Growing up in the Amazon gave Cardoso plenty of hard-earned grit and toughness. However, it didn’t make the transition to city life much easier.

Realizing that she had the skills of a world-class mixed martial artist, the Brazilian relocated to Manaus to pursue greatness.

Hours away from her family, the budding fighter didn’t know a soul in the city.

She said:

“The biggest difficulty I had was my move from Autazes to Manaus. Missing my family and everything we experienced was the hardest. I arrived in a city [where] I didn’t know anyone. In Manaus, I didn’t have any friends.”

To make matters worse, she slept in a crowded, makeshift room at her gym. 

But that toughness earned from her humble beginnings did pay off. In fact, it gave her the will to continue no matter the circumstances.

Cardoso said:

“I went to live in an improvised room, in the gym locker room, with six other athletes, with dreams like mine, all of them coming from cities in the interior. But they couldn’t take it and ended up giving up on their dreams. I was the only one who stayed, and [I am the only one] who is still fighting for my dream.”

Ready For Any Challenge

On April 21, Cardoso will have yet another chance to fight for her dream. Except this time, she’ll do so at the iconic Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

No longer just a rough-and-tumble girl from the rainforest, “Day Monster” is now a top-tier fighter. She’s determined to prove that she’s a World Champion-level athlete with a statement win against Meng.

Brimming with confidence, Cardoso said:

“Poor her. She caught me at my best. Right now I just want to win. Her or anyone else they put me to fight, I’m prepared for whoever comes.”

And even though she’ll be thousands of miles away from the Amazon, she’s bringing the spirit of her childhood in the rainforest with her.

She said:

“As we say here in my land, the jaguar will drink water. I’m pretty sure she’s never faced a girl as strong-willed and trained as I am.”

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