A flyweight bout is in Mackenzie Dern’s immediate future, but that doesn’t mean she plans to stick around in that division.
The 24-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace is set to compete in her fourth MMA bout when she takes on Mandy Polk at Legacy Fighting Alliance 24 on Oct. 13 at the Comerica Theater in Phoenix, Ariz. That matchup will be at 125 pounds, which had to come as a relief to Dern’s fans and supporters who have seen her unable to make the strawweight limit in her past two outings (one of which was changed to a 120-pound catchweight bout prior to weigh-ins).
Though it appears that the timing is perfect for Dern (3-0) to make the flyweight division her permanent home given that the UFC is currently in the process of integrating that weight class through the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Dern has her reservations about making the switch.
“Everyone keeps asking about 125, but I don’t know,” Dern said on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour. “I feel like the girls we have (at The MMA Lab in Phoenix), like Lauren Murphy, she was just in The Ultimate Fighter house, and she’s way bigger than me, and she fought 135 and now went down to 125, so I feel like the 125 girls are way bigger than me.
“But 115 is so hard for me to make. So I’m excited to see 125 and to see how I do there, and see how I feel there, but it’s definitely not 100-percent that that’s the weight class I will want to stay at. I feel like if I can figure out how to continue at 115, that would be better size-wise, but who knows?”
At the very least, knowing that there is now a 125-lb division in the UFC gives Dern another option in her pursuit of Octagon glory should the strawweight limit prove to be too difficult a hurdle to consistently clear. She’s still getting used to the whole process of cutting weight, a challenge that hasn’t been made easier by her continued participation in jiu-jitsu tournaments.
“It’s so hard because I think fighting jiu-jitsu and going up and down, up and down, it’s hard to keep my weight so low all year round,” Dern said. “After I have a fight, we go up and then I feel like when I go down to 115 with a lot of dehydration, it’s different than what we do in jiu-jitsu. We don’t dehydrate. We weigh in and then we go straight to the mats.
“In MMA, I had to lose more than 12 pounds in 24 hours, it’s crazy, so I feel like I’m just not used to it, my body. I don’t know, it’s definitely hard but I think with the right people and just keep trying and getting used to it and trying to figure out outside of camp how to get it better, instead of just focusing on the six-week camp. I think that would help in the long run.”
Among the people that Dern has spoken to about getting her diet and health habits right is noted nutrition consultant George Lockhart, though Dern hasn’t committed to working with any one specialist or plan.
Another commitment she wasn’t interested in making was spending six weeks inside of the TUF house to participate in this season’s tournament that will crown the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion. Though Dern discussed the possibility with her manager, she eventually declined since it would mean missing grappling tournaments she was interested in.
Even so, Dern acknowledged that as long as she keeps winning, there will be questions about when she will make the walk down to the Octagon, and once again it’s weight concerns that are keeping her from laying out any concrete plans. She pointed to how women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg had a rough start to her UFC run due to the matchmakers being unsure of where the Brazilian star fit in their organization, and Dern doesn’t want to be caught in a similar dilemma.
“I think definitely by the fifth fight, we’ll know if I’ll be in the UFC or not,” Dern said. “I think what was holding me back was Cyborg got so much attention, for her to make 135, and it was like a really long time for the UFC to work (to try and get her in) the 135 division, so I understand that it’s hard for them (to sign me to fight in) the UFC when I only made 115 one time... I think if I want to go in the UFC at 115, the UFC would like to see me make 115 one more time before they sign me at 115, so I totally understand that. I think like if I could have made that on my last two fights, maybe by the fourth fight I could have been in the UFC already.”