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Mackenzie Dern training ‘Rocky Balboa-style,’ but still not 100 percent confident her fight will happen

Mackenzie Dern is looking to rebound from an unanimous decision loss to Amanda Ribas.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC has four events scheduled this month, but Mackenzie Dern will only truly believe her fight with Hannah Cifers will really happen if UFC 249 goes down smoothly in Jacksonville, Fla., this Saturday.

Dern was originally booked to meet Ariane Carnelossi on April 25, but the event was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic. The jiu-jitsu wizard was ultimately given an extra month to prepare to enter the octagon, and admits she’s getting used to the restrictions.

“I was coming off a bit of a messy camp, not an ideal camp, and my fight was canceled,” Dern told MMA Fighting. “My opponent was changed and they confirmed a new one, but, honestly, I am getting ready. It’s crazy because I’m used to this type of training now. It was very difficult for my first fight, everything was so new, but I’ve been training like this for two months now.

“However, I’m still not 100 percent confident the fight will happen or not. I’m waiting to see if the week of 9, 13 and 16, if the three events will happen, and then, ‘OK, it will happen.’ But I’m focused as it’s happening. I’m training as hard as possible.”

With gyms closed all over the United States, Dern had to adapt her preparation for her upcoming bout. Her training routine consists on having her father, jiu-jitsu legend Wellington “Megaton” Dias, and a couple of coaches and training partners work with her every day.

“I obviously haven’t sparred with many people and different styles to feel that well,” Dern said. “Gyms aren’t open, so my preparation is Rocky Balboa-style, running at the beach and things like that, but I’m feeling great and adapting everything we need.”

Weight cutting was a concern for Dern throughout most of her MMA career, but the strawweight talent hit the 115-pound mark with ease for her last bout, which marked the first loss of her career against Amanda Ribas. It’s not going that smoothly this time, but Dern feels “great.”

“It definitely isn’t as easy as after pregnancy,” she said, “I’m also stopping breastfeeding, which would burn 500 calories while sleeping [laughs], but it’s going great. I have three weeks and I’m 3kg [6.6 pounds] over, and I’m feeling great.”

The next three UFC events will take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, but Dern hasn’t been informed where her fight will go down. Her husband and 11-month-old daughter might attend if it’s in Las Vegas, but having her family travel to Florida is unlikely.

“I’m waiting to see how this first event goes,” Dern said. “If it happens, we’ll think about all the other details.”

“Things are more controlled now but [the pandemic] is still going on,” she continued. “Imagine if my dad catches it or something like that. You never know. It’s very risky. I’m doing it because I can train well compared to others who can’t. I’m feeling well, but you have to be careful. This is my career and not many people can work these days. The world is on pause, so I have to use the opportunity I’m having.”

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