The joy of Mackenzie Dern's second Ultimate Fighting Championship triumph was largely overshadowed by what happened on the scale one day prior.
At Friday’s weigh-ins, Dern checked in at 123 pounds, seven pounds over the strawweight limit. While UFC 224 opponent Amanda Bobby Cooper still accepted the bout, she called Dern’s effort a disgrace to all professionals.”
Despite her issues on the scale, Dern delivered on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt clipped Cooper with a right hand, bullied her foe to the mat and unloaded with ground-and-pound from mount. From there, she transitioned to Cooper’s back and finished with a rear-naked choke at the 2:27 mark of the opening stanza. Still, Dern spent a fair amount of time addressing her failed weight cut at the post-fight press conference.
“Everyone’s been asking me what happened at weigh-ins. I can tell you 10,000 excuses, but I really believe that what happened with my weight is way back months ago with my last fight. I think it’s my diet. I need to get my diet right,” Dern said. “The fact that I was able to do it before, I thought I knew what I was doing. A lot of things have been happening. It’s not an excuse. I missed flights and a lot of things and I just kept going and going.
“The UFC since the first day I got here was trying to help me, and I was saying I was gonna be able to make weight,” she continued. “On Friday at 9 a.m. I wasn’t cutting any more weight. I was in the sauna, there was no more water coming out, I wasn’t sweating, I couldn’t walk anymore. And the commission said you can’t keep going. Thankfully Amanda accepted the fight. I’m ashamed of that. I don’t want that to happen again.”
The victory over Cooper improved the 24-year-old to 7-0 in her burgeoning MMA career. She said that her history of competing in jiu-jitsu competitions helped her to block out the criticism surrounding her weight leading up to the fight.
“I think it was my experience being a competitor. I’ve spent my whole life in jiu-jitsu with people always demanding a lot. My father [Wellington “Megaton” Dias] is a legend in the sport, so people are always demanding a lot of things, but I felt even if I won people would say it’s because of my weight. I didn’t think much about it.
“I think what helped the most was the fact I was here in Brazil. If I was in Vegas or another place I would’ve felt it more…I knew that people here would support me either way. Fighting in Brazil gave me the extra motivation I needed.”
Dern didn’t want to downplay the significance of missing weight, particularly because exceeding 116 pounds by as much as she did might seem to indicate that she didn’t make much of an effort to hit her mark. However, Dern would also like to point out that her mistake is relatively small in the big picture.
“I don’t take steroids. I wasn’t popping for anything. There’s champions that are caught with drugs and cocaine and things like that,” Dern said. “For me it’s a mistake. The UFC is investing in me and I’m gonna work with them for that not to happen ever again.”
The plan for Dern in the near future appears to be a visit to the UFC Performance Institute. As part of that plan, she may be asked to make a practice weight cut without an upcoming fight to prove she can compete at strawweight.
“On Friday, [matchmaker Mick Maynard] called me and said, ‘We have an Institute in Vegas and we want you here. We’re going to work with you.’ I can’t lose that opportunity to get all this help from this organization. It’s gonna help me make weight,” she said. “They’ve already told me that even without a fight, they’re gonna tell me in a couple months that I’m gonna need to make weight, and they’re gonna stay on me. But that’s what I need. It’s not that it’s not important to me. It’s very important. I believe in what they’re offering to me. I’m gonna take their help.”