Mackenzie Dern became an attraction early in her jiu-jitsu career because of her father, grappling icon Wellington “Megaton” Dias, but now it’s time for the proud father to watch his daughter’s success in the UFC.
Dern defeated Ashley Yoder in her Octagon debut at UFC 222, improving to 6-0 in the sport with a split decision victory in Las Vegas, and “Megaton” spoke with MMA Fighting about her performance in the cage.
“I think she will get to the top because she’s talented,” Dias said. “This fight was a little close, but it is what it is. She won, that’s what matters. She has time to evolve and get better and better now, fix the mistakes here and there.”
“Megaton” scored the bout 29-28 in his daughter’s favor and was happy with her performance in the Octagon. Still, he’d prefer that Dern had shot for takedowns right away and submitted Yoder in the opening round.
”I was like ‘pull guard, take her down.’ I was f***ing nervous to watch her standing, afraid that a punch might land,” Dias said with a laugh. “‘Hands up! Move to the left!’ I was too overexcited, I wanted the fight to be over quickly. You see that when she took her down, that was her game. Not that she doesn’t know how to strike, she does, but if you’re a jiu-jitsu fighter just take them down and choke them.
”I come from that classic jiu-jitsu, and many people make the transition from jiu-jitsu to MMA and decide to strike. Brother, if you’re a grappler, why are you standing and trading? What are you trying to prove? Okay, I understand that you have to learn how to strike, of course, but use your striking to close the distance and take your opponent down because that’s what you’re good at. You do jiu-jitsu your entire life.”
It’s not easy to watch your daughter get punched in the face, and “Megaton” saw Dern get dropped in the second round.
”After that punch landed and she went down, I said ‘oh sh*t,’ but thank God she came back up right away and got the victory,” Dias said. “I think it was close, but not close enough for a split decision. Even with the knockdown. I think (Dern) won rounds one and three, and lost the second because of the knockdown. I don’t think it was that close, but maybe that’s me speaking as a father [laughs].”
Dern captured dozens of titles in jiu-jitsu and grappling before making a transition to mixed martial arts, and “Megaton” says he never really tried to convince her to stay away from the cage. However, he admits he did joke about his daughter attempting a career in modeling instead of getting punched in the face.
”‘Do you really want to do this? Don’t you want to become a model?’” Dias laughed. “But I think that’s her destiny. Going from jiu-jitsu to MMA is the natural transition. But I always joked about her being a model instead of fighting. ‘Do you want to get punched in the face? You’re a beautiful girl, why get punched in the face?’ But we’re a family of fighters so I can handle it, even if it’s my daughter punching and getting punched.
“Jiu-jitsu also has injuries, but it’s different,” he added. “A guy was training MMA here in my gym recently and went for a takedown and ended up accidentally hitting his friend’s knee and fractured his orbital bone. I said ‘oh sh*t, imagine someone hitting that for real.’ That concerns me. Man, a beautiful girl like her… Some people can fight MMA because it might actually help their looks [laughs], but my daughter is really beautiful, right, brother? I made her with love, so you get nervous about it.”
Born and raised in Rio, and ever a superstitious father, Dias may change things up and watch Dern fight live for the first time in Brazil, but he’ll discuss it with her first.
“I’ve never watched her fight live before,” said Dias, who also praised her daughter’s coaches and cornermen for their work. “It’s working that way, so I don’t want change it and bring any bad luck [laughs].”