Throughout its more than a quarter-century of history, the UFC has seen champions from all walks of life, but stunning submission queen Mackenzie Dern says she wants to create history by becoming its first-ever ‘mom champ’.
The 27-year-old Dern entered the UFC to a wave of fanfare two years ago on the back on an undefeated professional record as well as submission grappling ledger which saw her claim 75 wins on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu circuit.
Dern, who is married to Australian professional surfer Wesley Santos, gave birth to her first child in June of last year – and returned to the cage just four months later where she was defeated for the first and only time in career by Amanda Ribas, but now with two more wins under her (black) belt Dern is focused on taking the next step in her career to become the first mother to hold UFC gold.
“Definitely in 2021, I want to try and pick a little bit more my fights to really get me one step closer to the belt, not just fight anyone for anytime for anything,” Dern announced this week ahead of her UFC 256 clash with Virna Jandiroba.
“I really want to fight the top fighters and show that I have the level to be the champion. I don’t want to get there by just fighting anyone. I want to get there by proving myself, and I think the best way to prove it is by fighting the top contenders.”
She will certainly be facing a stern challenge in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Her opponent, Brazil’s Jandiroba, boasts an impressive submission grappling arsenal of her own, with 13 of her 16 wins coming by way of tap out – including an impressive first-round armbar finish of Felice Herrig in August.
Facing a fighter who is arguably the biggest grappling threat of her mixed martial arts career to date, Dern maintains that she sees her skills as being that bit more robust than her opponent’s.
“I think her grappling is a lot of pressure and passing and things like that, and people see me doing these crazy armbars and leglocks and kind of a little bit looser and stuff like that, but man, I’m a complete fighter,” she said.
Dern says she has added further strings to her bow by training with famed striking coach Jason Parillo and while she says she won’t become a knockout artist overnight, she says that her overall game will help put her in positions where she can be successful on the ground.
“Of course my plan is not to win the fight striking, but I definitely think it’s going to give a lot more opportunities to show and maybe hurt her a little bit on my striking so the jiu-jitsu will be even easier, but I think it’s going to be a great fight,” Dern said.
And a win for Dern, especially an impressive one, will ideally position her for what would be a singularly unique achievement in the UFC.
“I think once I get the mom’s belt and become mom champ, then that would be, ‘OK, now it’s a big difference,'” she said earlier this year.