LAS VEGAS – Mackenzie Dern’s training camp for UFC Fight Night 224 was filled with hurdles and struggles.
As the universe seemed to be dragging her down, Dern (12-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) said she ultimately came to realizations that reshaped her mindset for the better ahead of her main event bout Saturday vs. Angela Hill (15-12 MMA, 10-12 UFC) at the UFC Apex.
“I feel like so many things are trying to bring me down, like changing managers, the divorce, the gym,” Dern told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a news conference Wednesday. “There’s so much stuff going on that I don’t want something to take me off my course. To stay on course, I need to have a plan.”
Through a divorce, a management change, and a month-long absence of her coach Jason Parillo, Dern focused on the mental side of her life, which trickled into her fight career. She enters UFC Fight Night 224 with what she thinks is a more educated and measured approach.
“It was basically, like, this camp was tactical and having this vision of fighting that I never had before.” Dern said. “I feel kind of like, man, I’m 10 fights into the UFC and I just found that out now to understand that. I just need to win the round. If you do that each round you win the fight.”
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Dern, 30, has been considered by many a future UFC title contender since she burst on the MMA scene as an accomplished jiu-jitsu ace in 2016. She’s lost three times a pro MMA fighter. Dern tacks up at minimum her two most recent losses to a feeling of discouragement that came when she struggled to submit her opponents.
“Marina (Rodriguez) and Yan Xiaonan, I think they were both really experienced fighters with good movement,” Dern said. “For me, now going into this fight and with my loss, I have a vision that’s better. I don’t need to submit every single round – this pressure and this excitement like, ‘I need to submit.’ If I didn’t finish in the first round, then I didn’t finish in the second round, you could see the emotion and the frustration getting in. I’m like, ‘OK, these girls know how to win by points.’
“They know how to use the rulebook, which is part of the game. … I was so confident and I wanted to submit them that it was a little bit too exciting instead of more patience and calm and precision.”
Against Hill, Dern hopes to break her bad luck at the UFC Apex and take one more step toward her ultimate goal of UFC champion. She is 1-2 in her most recent three, but Dern will find herself at 2-1 in her most recent three should she win.
“The path to the belt, I’m trying to make it as clear as possible,” Dern said.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 224.