After starting off her MMA career in 2016 with two wins in two fights, strawweight prospect Mackenzie Dern has carried that success into 2017 with two victories in both of her bouts this year.
Speaking to MMAWeekly.com during her final preparations for her match against Kaline Medeiros at Invicta FC 26 on Friday in Las Vegas, Dern discussed her second year in MMA, transitioning from the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world, and how she deals with the tremendous expectations on her blossoming fight career.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Mackenzie, look back on your 2017 so far and tell us how you feel things have gone for you in your second full year of fighting MMA.
Mackenzie Dern: My fight with Katherine (Roy, at LFA 6) was in March, so everything went like planned, we really wanted to have a fight at the beginning of the year.
I think what’s good is that it went all three rounds. Looking back on the fight I was able to take her down every round. When I wanted the takedown I was able to accomplish that. Most of the fight was standing up, so it was good for me to be out of my comfort zone. I’m really happy for the performance. Of course I want the submission, but now is a good time for me to learn all these things and experience things.
Half way through the year I had knee surgery, so that kind of threw (the schedule) out a little bit. We wanted to have a fight in June, but I was only able to do my next fight on October 13. It was a little while before my next fight, when we just wanted to keep up that rhythm with training camps and everything.
There was not a hard weight cut for (my October fight with Mandy Polk at LFA 24) because we decided to take the fight at 125-pounders because they were doing The Ultimate Fighter at 125-pounders and we wanted to see how I felt at that (weight).
It was good. I felt strong. It was good to have a camp where I could focus on getting better and not have to stress about the weight. I was so happy I was able to get the knockdown and finish the fight with Jiu-Jitsu. But I did feel like a lot of the girls at 125-pounders are way bigger than me, so I really thought if my main goal was to be in the UFC and win a belt, I’m the perfect size for 115-pounders.
MMAWeekly.com: How do you feel about your growth as an MMA fighter from your first bout in July of 2016 to now? Do you see a little change or a lot of change over that time?
Mackenzie Dern: I see such a big difference. It’s so crazy. My very first fight (against Kenia Rosas at Legacy FC 58) was just Jiu-Jitsu. I barely threw any punches. When I was on the ground, even in the mount, I was thinking about armbar or choke, not about throwing punches.
Just my movement, keeping my hands up, and now my combinations are more natural. Kind of like seeing the punches and trying to get out of the way, because in the beginning I couldn’t see the punches. I definitely see my evolution as an MMA fighter. I’m able to mix my stand-up with my ground. I also see so much where I can grow.
MMAWeekly.com: How does it feel to go from just being on one of maybe two or so female bouts on a card to joining an all-female promotion like Invicta?
Mackenzie Dern: I’m really excited to be on Invicta. Everything Invicta has done for women is such a big movement for helping grow women’s MMA. I was a very big women’s Jiu-Jitsu representative (in grappling sports), so if I want to be a big Jiu-Jitsu representative in MMA and fight in the cage, I think there’s no better place than Invicta, in what they’re movement is and everything they’re doing for women’s MMA.
MMAWeekly.com: Tell us your thoughts on your upcoming fight on Friday against Kaline Medeiros and what you feel you must do to get the win against her.
Mackenzie Dern: I’m excited for the challenge. She’s fought for the Invicta title before, she has a lot of experience, and I always look for a lot of challenge, so I’m really excited about this.
From what I know, she’s a very tough girl. She has a lot of heart. I think if I hit her hard, she won’t back away. She will keep coming forward. On the ground, in my opinion, I don’t think her Jiu-Jitsu is black belt (level), but she’s not oblivious. I think she knows her defense and can survive the ground. I definitely think she’s going to be tough and very resistant.
I think the best way is to get the submission, but it’s going to be a tough fight. We want to keep having tough challenges to show that I’m ready for the next level, so she’s the perfect challenge. I think it will be a very exciting fight.
MMAWeekly.com: Looking ahead to 2018, there are going to be a lot of expectations on you to make a move to the next level. How do you handle it all and not let it affect you?
Mackenzie Dern: I think my team and my family really help keep me grounded. Even after my third fight (against Roy), I was excited because I did three rounds standing up, and my coaches are really good about keeping my feet on the ground.
Because so many people have good expectations and stuff, they have the same amount of people who have criticism. There are so many opinions. Good or bad, they don’t know me. They don’t know my training. They only see the outside.
I am excited that people are excited about me and give me a lot of motivation; of course, I don’t want to let them down. The same thing with criticism, it also helps push me and helps me want to prove them wrong.
You just have to think about you. And my team and my family give me so many good things, so I think I have a good support system around me and that’s the most important thing.