Mackenzie Dern is about to step inside a cage for her third professional MMA fight, but has already set high goals for her career.
The jiu-jitsu wizard takes on Katherine Roy at Friday night’s LFA 6 in San Antonio, Texas, and has already established what she wants for her run in the sport: win a pair of UFC belts and retire before she’s 30 years old.
"I’ll try to follow (Conor) McGregor’s footsteps,” Dern told MMA Fighting on Monday. "The best in the world always have goals to achieve."
Dern competes as a strawweight, and the second belt she’s mentioning is in case the UFC creates the flyweight division for women in the future. Her bout at LFA 6 will be a 120-pound catchweight, that was arranged after she informed the promotion that she wouldn’t be able to cut down to 115 pounds.
"I think that if the UFC has a 125-pound division, I’d like to fight in that division too, see if I feel good there,” Dern said. "But I think that my height is for 115. But I need to get used to keeping my weight closer to 115. My body is different than the other strawweights."
Aiming to make history in mixed martial arts, Dern, who is one of the best grapplers in the history of jiu-jitsu, says that she wants to be remembered when she stops competing.
"I never wanted to be just another one in jiu-jitsu,” Dern said. "Maybe there is someone in jiu-jitsu with more titles than me, but I try to be someone with a different style. I want to be remembered. We stop competing one day and all this hard work can’t be forgotten. I’m not saying that being the champion is easy, it’s actually pretty hard, but I want to be remembered and become a Hall of Famer in MMA as well.”
Ready to enter a MMA cage for the third time, Dern already has an idea of how long her career will last.
"I don’t think about fighting MMA for many years,” she said. "I don’t feel like doing like Miesha Tate, who fought MMA for 15 years, getting punched in the face. I entered MMA in the right time. I’m young. I’ll never be able to leave jiu-jitsu. I feel that one day, when I conquer everything I want in MMA, jiu-jitsu will be there for me to come back and inspire the young generation. That’s why I made this transition to MMA now. It’s the right time. Do MMA for five or six years and I’ll be fine."
"If I can win two belts by 27, I’ll stop (fighting) earlier,” she continued. "I want to win the belt and defend it, but I wanna know the right time to stop fighting. The best in the world always set new goals, but we never know when is the right time to stop. We always want more. I wanna know when it’s time to stop. I’m really comfortable with my decision to go from jiu-jitsu to MMA now, and I hope to do the same in MMA as well.”
Dern’s opponent on Friday is 1-0 prospect Roy, who made a transition to mixed martial arts after a successful career in boxing.
"I’m expecting that she will try to put some pressure because she’s a boxer, but I’m anxious for this fight,” Dern said. "I watched one of her MMA fights, but I’m not at that level where you can watch a fight and see if she’s good or not. But we’re super confident on the ground.
"She’s the first MMA fighter I’m facing that has less experience than me, but she’s a Golden Glove champion so she’ll come to use her hands. Nobody tried to put pressure over me yet, and I think she will try to do that. But I think it’s gonna be a great fight.”
Unlike her previous MMA fights, when Dern scored a decision win and an impressive submission under the Legacy FC banner, the jiu-jitsu wizard flew to Rio de Janeiro to train with one of the best MMA athletes in the world.
"Every camp has been different,” Dern said. "This time I stayed in Brazil two months before the fight, but once again I didn’t completely stopped competing in jiu-jitsu. I fought the European championship, a superfight at Fight 2 Win. I kept mixing it up, MMA and jiu-jitsu. The one thing that changed and was great is that I was able to train with Jose Aldo and his striking coach Emerson Falcao to learn different things and evolve as an athlete. It was really nice."