Mackenzie Dern is set to make her UFC debut at UFC 222 this weekend. The Brazilian is undefeated so far in her five-fight professional MMA career and will be looking to improve the record when she faces Ashley Yoder at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Yoder (5-3), on the other hand, has an immense responsibility on her shoulders as she is heading into the fight after suffering two back to back losses. The 30-year-old lost out to Justine Kish in her UFC debut and then suffered unanimous decision defeat against Angela Hill after that.
While the stakes are high for both the fighters, there’s a bit more pressure on Dern to deliver due to the hype surrounding her debut. Ever since she transitioned into MMA, there has been a lot of buzz around her career and there have been even comparisons with Ronda Rousey.
Mackenzie Dern: That when they see me, they remember her. I hope I will be able to do at least as much as she has done. I am excited for people to see that this is a new generation, a new era. It’s McKenzie’s time now.
Dern’s entry into the MMA world came after a celebrated career in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Her grappling skills are backed up by the pile of medals she has won over the past decade. Shedding the one-dimensional image and conquering the MMA world will be no cakewalk for Dern but she is up for the challenge.
Mackenzie Dern: I would like to fight as much as possible, not get injured. I just think the more people you fight the more experience you have but of course you also have more opportunity to lose because you are fighting more often. You are facing more obstacles and I think you are evolving as a fighter and getting more experience in the Octagon. My long-term goal is to evolve and to be respected as an all-round fighter, not just as a Jiu Jitsu fighter and win the belt of course.
Speaking of the belt, the Brazilian will be starting off her UFC career in Strawweight. While she entered into MMA as a Flyweight fighter, she has no intentions of dropping back to the weight category until she has captured the gold which currently resides around the waist of Rose Namajunas.
Mackenzie Dern: I will concentrate on strawweight, I competed in the flyweight division to see how I would do but I am stronger, faster at strawweight. Even my style is more complimentary at strawweight. Who knows though, maybe after I get the strawweight championship belt I can then go to flyweight and try and be a two-division champion. For now the goal is the strawweight belt.
Her previous experiences inside the cage will be crucial in her pursuit of the Strawweight title. In her last fight, she fought Kaline Medeiros at Invicta Fighting Championship. And it was this fight that paved her way into the UFC.
Mackenzie Dern: My experience in Invicta was the best it could have been. The fight I had was great overall, I was able to stay on my feet for most of the 3 rounds and still get the submission. I felt my stand up was evolving, I showed my background in Jiu Jitsu. I think one of the biggest aspects is that I made weight and I was healthy. It showed the UFC that I am serious about this division and being a Strawweight athlete. I am really happy about this transition.
Interestingly, The Women’s Strawweight division is one of the best-booked divisions in the UFC and at the same time has some excellent fighters in it. The 24-year-old Dern does not want to pick and call out fighters as she is open to anyone in the packed division.
Mackenzie Dern: For me I respect all the girls. I know all of them have strengths and weaknesses. I know with my coaches we will get the right match ups at the right time, but for me I would fight anyone.
The road to the Strawweight title is a long one and the first roadblock for Dern will be Yoder at UFC 222. Ahead of the fight, she hopes to bring out the best in her.
Mackenzie Dern: I did not scout her out, I left that to my coaches to study her style. All I know is that she is southpaw and I know that she is coming off two losses. I am just going to focus on being the best me I can be.
UFC 222 Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya will be Live and Exclusive on SONY TEN 2 SD & SONY TEN 2 HD on Sunday 4th March 2018 at 8:30 AM.