In 2015, Mackenzie Dern — who some feel may eventually become the next Ronda Rousey — was dominant. She had multiple victories in jiu-jitsu tournaments, regardless of gi or no gi and regardless of it was in the 130-pound division or it was openweight.
The daughter of Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Wellington Dias, Dern has been training the martial art since the age of 3, and her dedication to jiu-jitsu earned praise among many in the grappling world to call her the best female grappler on the planet. But while she could have stayed in the world of the one martial art, she made quite the surprise through one Instagram post. In the post, Dern, standing with the UFC’s Lauren Murphy and Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger, announced she would be making the move to the world of MMA.
Yet, funny enough, if Dern stuck with her first choice from the start, she wouldn’t have entered the world of MMA.
"It’s weird, I was always against doing MMA," Dern said. "It was mostly my dad. I’m an only child from my dad’s side, and daddy’s little girl — growing up he always didn’t want me to do MMA. Of course, I think being a dad, he didn’t want to see his daughter getting punched in the face. I think he always thought that I could accomplish a very happy life through jiu-jitsu, being a success in jiu-jitsu and doing seminars and traveling the world. And that’s true. I’m successful already with jiu-jitsu. I’m already sustained with jiu-jitsu. But for me, it’s not even about that. It’s about goals and my objectives, and to be more."
What helped her further into the sport was Rousey herself, who opened the door to more female fighters with success in the UFC after building a reputation at the 2008 Summer Olympics and Strikeforce.
"So when I had a great year [in 2015], it was like, ‘Okay, I can do this,’" Dern said. "And I saw Ronda, how much she opened the doors for girls, even outside of MMA. All the success that she had, it was like, man, we can make a living off that too."