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Mackenzie Dern’s MMA goal: Fight for the UFC title by end of 2017

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Mackenzie Dern didn’t get the submission she was hoping for in her mixed martial arts debut, but the strawweight prospect dominated Kenia Rosas for 15 minutes at Legacy FC 58. Rosas, a fellow MMA newcomer, was able to survive many submission attempts by the current No. 1 pound-for-pound grappler in the world, but Dern wasn’t upset about it.

"I’m always confident in my jiu-jitsu, especially since it was Kenia Rosas’ pro debut, and it was my first fight, so I was definitely confident in my jiu-jitsu," Dern told Ariel Helwani on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. "I hoping to get a submission, but, man, she was so flexible and very tough.

"I wasn’t upset about it. I felt I was really good in the whole fight. It was good to see the cardio different between jiu-jitsu and MMA, to go all three rounds, and being attacking all three rounds and not feel tired, and see everything’s going good. And jiu-jitsu you don’t really hurt people. It was kind of good for me to see ‘okay, I can throw elbows, I can throw this.’ It was good for me to feel that. I like it."

Rosas didn’t tap in many attacks, and Dern realized it would be tough to finish the fight after she escaped from the first armbar attempt.

"After the first armbar, I pretty much figured that she was flexible," Dern said. "I mean, I don’t know if she was double jointed, but you see that in jiu-jitsu sometimes. I train with girls that are really flexible. In my mind, I was like ‘okay, what do I need to do not get tired if I don’t finish her?’ I was just trying to control, and I didn’t spend too much energy trying to submit something. I think that if I had a choke, I honestly think that she wouldn’t tap. I think she’d prefer to go to sleep. I could feel it. That warrior spirit, you know?"

"I just gained so much experience here," she continued. "Some positions, I went to a kneebar and toehold, and I was like ‘let me work a little bit. This is my first fight, so let me work a little bit my punching, and try to get used to that.’ I didn’t get frustrated or anything like that. I think it would be maybe more frustrating if I felt her defending a lot the positions, but a lot of times I could feel I was getting to the positions and submissions, but she was just tough and hanging on. It was good for me to be calm during the fight, so I really enjoyed it."

Prior to the fight, Dern told MMA Fighting that her goal in mixed martial arts was to sign with the UFC and start a title run right away. With her first win in the books, she hasn’t changed plans.

"I learn fast. I think that as long as I keep evolving, that’s the plan," Dern said. "I’m not gonna give up on what I have planned. I think I’m doing good, just to get used to it and keep being confident and trust. There’s so much stuff that my coaches taught me. But I think for my first fight was able to have that come out. I’m excited to start testing more my stand-up but, of course, I’m never gonna take away my jiu-jitsu. I’ll always go to jiu-jitsu, but I’m still confident with that goal. I think that maybe by the end of 2017 I can try for a title. We’ll see. Who knows? You never know. But that’s the goal."