UFC strawweight Mackenzie Dern was indeed in the midst of a court fight with her estranged husband before her fight with Angela Hill at UFC Vegas 73.
During a Wednesday appearance on The MMA Hour, Dern went into detail about her fractured relationship with her estranged husband, Wesley Santos, and, for the first time, accused him of physical abuse.
“So I feel like I’ve been having to defend myself this whole time for things that I never thought I’d have to defend myself for,” she said, latter adding, “I was in a situation in my relationship where I couldn’t even defend myself, because I was getting, like, threatened that if I did anything, I’d be talking to the police and I could lose my daughter.
“So, I stayed in my relationship because I believed in the family, and I believe that that’s what God wanted and stuff. But there’s a certain point where you try, try and try, and things don’t change, and it just keeps getting worse and worse. And then, like I was saying, I wasn’t even able to defend myself. ... Like, police were getting called to the house. It was just getting out of control, and going through that in front of your daughter, you don’t want your daughter to witness that.”
In a prepared statement, Santos denied Dern’s allegations and said he will speak after their divorce is final.
“I am disappointed that Mackenzie chose to make public statements about our divorce, especially since it involves the custody of our beautiful daughter, Moa,” he wrote. “Because we are in the middle of legal proceedings, I cannot comment on anything at this time, except to say that Mackenzie’s statements are false and defamatory.”
One month before the event, Dern traded domestic violence accusations with Santos amid a custody fight over their 3-year-old daughter, Moa, in court, according to court documents obtained by MMA Fighting.
Among other allegations, Dern accuses Santos of repeated physical and emotional abuse, once slamming a door on her leg as he allegedly dragged her into their house during a fight. In April, one month after Santos asked the court for custody of Moa, she filed a petition for a domestic violence restraining order, attaching videos of one alleged incident of abuse in which he “threw my phone, water bottles, pillows and bedding while harassing/intimidating me verbally.”
Dern said police responded after the alleged incident was caught on video — which she said did not involve physical abuse — but did not file a report.
In a response to Dern’s restraining order, Santos countered that he was being abused, providing video and pictures of a bloody nose he said was caused by her punch during an alleged incident in the parking lot of a sushi restaurant. He also accused her of beating Moa in a video she sent to him; he denied the abuse allegation in his response.
“I never physically attacked Mackenzie, she is an MMA fighter,” Santos wrote in a court filing. “I would never even try to get physical with her. I would have no chance.”
Dern also accuses Santos of abusing her two dogs by repeatedly striking them, an allegation he denies. She alleges he committed financial abuse by denying her access to sponsor money she earned in a Brazilian bank account, making unauthorized credit card purchases on her credit card, and forging a lease renewal on the apartment they once shared.
The court did not side with Dern or Santos on allegations of abuse, finding the couple may have engaged in mutual combat during incidents of alleged abuse between them, and ordered joint custody of Moa. But Dern, who was ruled the primary earner opposite stay-at-home parent Santos, was ordered to pay $10,000 of her estranged husband’s court fees. Additionally, she was ordered to pay him spousal and child support totaling $4,006 per month.
The estranged couple is due back in court next month to rule on a restraining order filed by Dern in April and the final custody agreement.
Dern said Wednesday that she used her anger about her personal life in the fight against Hill. Over five rounds, she dominated the UFC vet and nearly finished the bout on several occasions. Official scorecards reflected the lopsided result: 49-43 and 49-44 twice. Both earned $50,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses.
“Definitely nothing personal,” Dern said of her performance. “If I didn’t do it to her, she was gonna do it to me, for sure. So I was very grateful that my work gives me that opportunity, and this aggression that it was just for this fight.”