The 20-year-old undefeated strawweight Barber makes her Octagon debut on Saturday at UFC Denver against Hannah Cifers, but she’s already got an eye on a matchup with one of the company’s most hyped young stars.
Barber wasn’t even asked who she wanted to fight next after UFC Denver, but volunteered that a matchup with Dern is on her radar anyway.
“The person I want to fight is Mackenzie Dern, actually,” Barber (5-0) said at Thursday’s UFC Denver media day. “She has the No. 2 spot and I’d like that spot. I feel like that’s a great fight for me, that’s a fight that we’re going to win. That’s going to get me in the rankings and then the next thing is to move on up through the rankings.”
According to Barber, when both she and Dern competed in the LFA, Dern was twice offered Barber as an opponent, and twice turned it down.
“She ducked me in LFA,” Barber said. “When we were fighting in LFA, I was offered to fight her and she turned it down. And I wanted to fight her. I was given the opportunity a second time and she turned it down again. So, I feel like now she can’t run away. If she’s in the UFC, we have to fight.”
Barber believes that Dern has been the beneficiary of favorable stylistic matchups during her UFC stint, facing opponents who play to her strength on the ground as a jiu-jitsu standout. But Barber, who has two knockouts and two submissions among her five career wins, believes she has an all-around game which will expose Dern’s weaknesses.
“To be honest, I feel like she hasn’t fought anyone necessarily that has given her the matchup that she needs,” Barber said. “She fought a lot of people who are going to give her the opportunity to go the ground and put it in her favor. And I’m not that fighter. I can fight standing up and fight on the ground, and yeah, it’s a great matchup for me.”