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Mackenzie Dern says she has left MMA Lab, ‘definitely’ won’t be going back to Arizona

LOS ANGELES — Mackenzie Dern has left the gym she started in MMA with and it doesn’t seem like she’ll be going back.

The UFC strawweight fighter and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace said Wednesday at a UFC media lunch that she was asked to leave The MMA Lab in Arizona after her last fight. Dern defeated Ashley Yoder by unanimous decision at UFC 222 back in March in her UFC debut.

“In relation with the Lab, after my last fight, Coach [John] Crouch, he just invited me to leave the team,” Dern said. “I think really we don’t have a 100-percent understanding. I think he knows his decisions more than me. I think with just the consistency, he wanted me to be there more often than what I was, but everything happens for a reason.”

Dern, 25, said she is currently training in the Los Angeles area with Checkmat and Leo Vieira for jiu-jitsu and Blackhouse for striking. Dern will face Amanda Bobby Cooper at UFC 224 on May 12 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dern is of Brazilian descent, the daughter of BJJ legend Wellington “Megaton” Dias, but was born in Phoenix.

“It’s nothing 100 percent or anything like that, but for this camp I’ve been working with them and I’m feeling so good,” Dern said.

Crouch said in a statement that Dern was “struggling” going back and forth from Arizona to California and he advised her she should just train there.

“She was struggling to make it back and forth to Arizona, and I thought it was better that she just set up her camp in California, where she really enjoys being,” Crouch said.

“I wish her the best. I know she’s going to do great in her jiu-jitsu career and in her MMA career, and we’ll be cheering for her.”

Dern (6-0) said that California living agrees with her, though she also considered moving her camp to Brazil.

“I think, like I said, the mindset and being confident, if you’re happy, too, with where you are, it’s the best,” Dern said. “Here is a little bit similar lifestyle that I have in Brazil. I almost went back to Brazil to live there. I was even training with Jose Aldo down there and everything and seeing if I would be there. So, I have this lifestyle here in California, which gives me that good balance.”

It seems, according to Dern, that there was a disconnect about the frequency of her training at the MMA Lab. Dern admitted that she has certain preferences about her training schedule that perhaps clashed with Crouch.

“I’m not just training,” Dern said. “I’m not the person that the next day I’m back in the academy. I like to be able to be on the beach and relax and miss to be on the mats and want to be on the mats. I don’t like to feel the pressure to be on the mats. I’m on the mats since I’m 3 years old. For me, at 25, when I have the time to rest and everything, then the next time, it’s like man I want to train. I like to have that drive.”

Dern, a rising UFC prospect, said she’s undecided where she’ll land permanently. But a return to the Labs seems unlikely.

“Definitely not back to Arizona,” Dern said.

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