UFC newcomer Mackenzie Dern welcomes comparisons to Ronda Rousey

Updated February 28, 2018 - 7:02 pm

A potential superstar with an impeccable grappling resume and a massive social media presence is set to make her UFC debut Saturday to great fanfare.

The unavoidable comparisons to former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey were sure to come.

Mackenzie Dern hasn’t tried to stop them.

“If people see me and are reminded of her or my story reminds them of her story and everything she accomplished, it’s a huge compliment,” Dern, 24, said Wednesday at the Monte Carlo in advance of her UFC 222 preliminary card bout against strawweight Ashley Yoder at T-Mobile Arena.

“I hope I can do at least what she did, if not more, for women in sports and the martial arts. That’s my goal. That would be amazing for me. But in my mind, it’s a different era. There are more new divisions. Things are changing constantly. Maybe our stories are similar, but we are different people. I’m going to have my own story. I’m going to make my own legacy.”

Dern already had elite jiujitsu skills when she made her professional MMA debut in July 2016 without ever taking an amateur bout.

Her grappling prowess combined with a popular Instagram account led to an inordinate number of eyes on her bout against Kenia Rosas on a Legacy Fighting Championships card in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Dern won that fight and four more without a loss as she ramped up the level of competition in preparation for an eventual move to the UFC.

“People were criticizing me a lot, and I felt some of the scrutiny,” she said. “I had never done any amateur fights or anything, and in my first two fights, I barely threw a strike. My coaches were reminding me, ‘Hey, you can punch.’ Most people who have their first MMA fight, nobody even knows about it. Even Ronda, I don’t think people even knew when she had her first fight.

“Now that I’m in the UFC, I don’t feel it too much. I walk the halls at the hotel and I see ‘Cyborg’ or Frankie Edgar and all these big stars. I don’t get the feeling too many people are talking about me anymore.”

The attention is still there, though. Dern’s fight will serve as the headliner of the Fox Sports 1 portion of the card as a lead-in to the pay-per-view broadcast.

Dern, born in Phoenix to a Brazilian father who was a jiujitsu star, hoped she would make the UFC by the end of 2017. While she missed her goal by a few months, partly because of a knee injury, she believes now is the right time to make the jump.

“I was really feeling ready to be in the UFC even before my last fight,” she said. “But I think the biggest thing was to show them I could make 115 pounds. I’m not ready to fight the top five or anything like that just yet, but I was thinking the UFC has the opponents I need to help push me to become the fighter I want to be. If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you’ll never develop to the next level.”

She continues to master the weight-cutting aspect and is proud of her progress as a striker.

“My standup is evolving so much,” she said. “I mean, I’m not like Muhammad Ali or anything, but I feel I’m getting much better at it and it’s pretty good for a jiujitsu girl. I at least feel OK standing up if I can’t get the takedown right away.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

Covering The Cage Videos
UFC 235 press conference highlights
UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman have a heated exchange and Ben Askren enjoys his time on the stage by interacting with UFC president Dana White.
UFC president Dana White talks UFC 235 and more
UFC president Dana White joined Heidi Fang and Adam Hill to discuss the UFC 235 card set for Las Vegas on Mar. 2 at the T-Mobile Arena and also spoke on Colby Covington and Khabib Nurmagomedov's and Conor McGregor's disciplinary measures given by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Full version available on Facebook at Review-Journal Sports
Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman Have Heated Exchange At UFC 235 Presser - VIDEO
UFC 235 opened with Jon Jones returning after his meeting at the Nevada Athletic commission, Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman arguing on stage and Ben Askren making his UFC debut.
NAC Chairman says it's time to tone down MMA smack talk ahead of fights
After announcing the fines and suspensions given to Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov for their involvement in a melee at UFC 229 in Las Vegas, Nevada Athletic Commission Chairman Anthony Marnell said it may be time to address "mouthy fighters" smack talk and conduct leading up to a fight.
Jones, NAC Chairman issue statements following Jones' licensing approval for UFC 235
The Nevada Athletic Commission issued UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones a conditional one-fight license to compete at UFC 235 taking place at the T-Mobile Arena on Mar. 2. Jones had to reapply for a license in Nevada after failing a drug test which led to UFC 232 being moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, California.
UFC donates $240,000 to Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada
UFC presents Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada with $240,000 donation and promises to grant more wishes as the partnership goes forward.
Benavidez on his new contract, future of the UFC flyweight division
UFC flyweight Joseph Benavidez, who is booked to fight Dustin Ortiz at UFC Fight Night 143 on ESPN Plus, discusses his role as an alternate for the title fight between T.J. Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo, his new 4-fight contract and the future of the 125-pound division.
Covering the Cage: Jones, Nunes win at UFC 232
Amanda Nunes defeats Cyborg in the women's featherweight division and Jon Jones returns to UFC as the light heavyweight champion. Covering the Cage host Heidi Fang and Adam Hill recap the UFC 232 main and co main events.
Las Vegas MMA fighter Joey Ruquet joins Copa Combate tournament
When Combate Americas' Copa Combate tournament takes place on Dec. 7, Las Vegas-based MMA fighter Joey Ruquet will step in for Gaston Reyno and compete for the $100,000 prize money in the 8-man, one night featherweight tournament.
Espino, Chiasson claim UFC contracts with wins at TUF 28 Finale
Juan Espino was crowned as the TUF heavyweight winner when he submitted Justin Frazier at the finale in Las Vegas and Macy Chiasson submitted Pannie Kianzad to become the TUF 28 women's featherweight winner.
Kamaru Usman excited for what's next after TUF 28 win
After taking a win over Rafael dos Anjos at the TUF 28 Finale, UFC welterweight Kamaru Usman says he can be ready for anything that comes next or a quick turnaround if it gets him closer to a title shot.
Dana White on what's next for Usman and the flyweight division
UFC president Dana White spoke with media after the TUF 28 Finale to discuss what's next for the flyweight division and the main event winner, UFC welterweight Kamaru Usman.
Dos Anjos and Usman TUF 28 media day
Rafael dos Anjos and Kamaru Usman talk about facing each other at the TUF 28 Finale at a media day leading up to the Nov. 30 contest. Their welterweight bout will serve as the main event.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing