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LAS VEGAS – Mackenzie Dern is already a world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but she now believes she’s ready to accomplish the same feat in MMA.
While she’s been competing in MMA professionally for the past five years, Dern said she is now seeing the improvements in her own game that are necessary to compete at the highest level of the sport.
“I definitely think I am at the right structure in my life,” Dern told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s UFC on ABC 2 media day at the UFC Apex. “I have the right support that I need. Since my pregnancy, I think a big thing I was saying was that I kind of lost a lot of muscle and that I wanted to eventually gain that muscle, so this was the first camp that I felt like, ‘OK, my boxing, my striking, I’m getting to a good level. My grappling is staying sharp. Now I’m ready to add one more responsibility to my camp.’
“This camp I brought in my coach from Brazil, Rogerio Camoes, to do my strength training, so it’s good to see that as the fights, you know, you’re going up the ranks you’re getting more fights, you’re able to bring in more responsibilities, and you’re just feeling good in your camp and everything to be able to add more things, you know, so I’m really starting to be, I think, champ material.”
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The effort seems to be paying off. Under the watchful eye of veteran trainer Jason Parillo – who has previously worked with the likes of Michael Bisping and B.J. Penn, among others – Dern went an impressive 3-0 in 2020 and currently sits at No. 11 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie strawweight rankings. Dern credits Parillo’s guidance for her current success.
“He’s been through all these champions, and it’s cool when you have, like, my strength coach, my boxing coach, they have this artwork that they want to do, and I’m their artwork,” Dern said. “I kind of just trust their process and let them do what they want with me, you know, and I know that in the end they have the the finished product that they want, and they’re going to do a masterpiece.”
Dern (10-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) returns to action at Saturday’s UFC on ABC 2, when she takes on Nina Ansaroff (10-6 MMA, 4-3 UFC) on the ABC-televised main card that follows prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ from the UFC Apex. Ansaroff fights for the first time since giving birth to her daughter this past September, but Dern isn’t expecting any kind of letdown from her opponent, who sits at No. 5 in the UFC’s official rankings.
“You can’t mess around,” Dern said. “She’s No. 5 for a reason, so
I think it will be exciting to see what her mom experience was compared to my mom experience, you know?”
A victory would certainly earn Dern another high-profile booking. With several big matchups scheduled in the UFC’s strawweight division, including a title fight later this month at UFC 261, Dern believes she has a chance to really elevate herself in the rankings – a challenge she finally feels ready to tackle head on.
“I believed it (before), but it wasn’t like a focus for me,” Dern said. “Like, of course you want to go fight, but for me, it was just to make money and kind of have that celebrity life, you know, and go party after, you know? It’s just by myself, and I was kind of just enjoying the moment as it comes. I didn’t
think to take fighting as a strategy-wise, ‘OK, who should I fight next? How do I go up the rankings?’ It was just kind of the UFC, the public was doing it all for me, you know, and then now, after my loss and the pregnancy, I had to take control of my career and start to figure out what I want, you know, and now I’m just focused on the belt.
“I think about partying after the belt, you know, to celebrate – but until then, I just have like the blinders on, and that’s that’s the only thing I see.”
To see the full interview with Dern, check out the video above.