UFC newcomer Mackenzie Dern: After debut, fans will see more than next Ronda Rousey
LAS VEGAS – UFC newcomer Mackenzie Dern is flattered she’s labeled as the next Ronda Rousey.
Those are big shoes to fill – and so early to fill them. But Dern sees the comparison as a positive association. It serves to bring the attention she needs to create her own brand in MMA, one that hopefully surpasses the woman responsible for her ability to compete in the octagon.
“I think after my first fight, they’ll see, OK, this is a different person,” Dern (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) told MMAjunkie in advance of her FS1-televised fight against Ashley Yoder (5-3 MMA, 0-2 UFC) at UFC 222, which takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Managing expectations has always been a part of Dern’s career. Since she transitioned to MMA from the world of jiu-jitsu, where she was a massive star, her every move has been watched. It’s given her little time to develop away from the spotlight.
At 24, her UFC debut is one of the bigger storylines of this weekend’s pay-per-view event. If she falls short of expectations, she’ll be a bust in a relatively short line of potential heirs to Rousey’s throne. If she succeeds, the pressure will only get stronger.
“Now, I think the girls will respect my ground, but they’re not scared to fight,” she said. “Before, I took one step forward, and they took 10 steps back.”
The way Dern sees it, the more aggressive her foes, the better. She has a better shot of nabbing takedowns that allow her to work where she’s comfortable. She doesn’t have to spend fights wading through punches that might damage the facade she’d like to protect during her time in the UFC.
“My goal is to always just get in the fight and leave the fight without getting hurt – not to have a broken nose, or black eyes,” she said. “I think the UFC is the platform that people start to see the real Mackenzie.”
Dern has a long way to go before her resume compares to the ex-bantamweight champ. Waiting at the top of her division is women’s strawweight champ Rose Namajunas, who just dethroned dominant champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk. They are well-rounded threats that don’t need a takedown to survive.
But for now, Dern hopes to leverage all those positive associations into a winning debut that ends the way her fights usually do – with a tap.
“For sure, I think I’ll be able to get some punches,” she said. “I’m definitely not trying to go 15 seconds, takedown, and a submission. But I think in the end, it will result in a submission for me.”
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