UFC women’s strawweight Mackenzie Dern has opened up on the sponsors she lost during her pregnancy and hiatus from MMA in 2019.
After going 7-0 in the sport, a record which included two UFC victories over Ashley Yoder and Amanda Cooper, Dern announced in February 2019 that she would be taking maternity leave from the promotion ahead of the birth of her daughter.
In her first fight back, the Brazilian-American saw the only blemish to date added to her record by Amanda Ribas at UFC Fight Night 161. Since then, the 28-year-old has looked unstoppable. Consecutive first-round submissions against Hannah Cifers and Randa Markos brought her back into contention, before wins against top contenders Virna Jandiroba and Nina Nunes saw her enter the 155-pound top-five.
While she’s returned to the Octagon since her pregnancy with as much motivation and commitment as before, Dern has admitted that many didn’t expect her to achieve success after becoming a mom. In an interview with MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin, the former world No.1-ranked IBJJF competitor discussed why she’d lost sponsors during her 2019 hiatus.
“So, in sponsors, hey, it’s business you know, it’s money, I understand. (I’m) not gonna be in the media, not gonna be those things. But now I think they are probably like, ‘Oh, maybe we shouldn’t have done that.'”
Dern added that the masculine nature of the sport likely had a part to play in the attitude towards her pregnancy. But while many doubted the future of her MMA career, the Arizona-born Brazilian said she was, and still is, determined to prove everyone wrong.
“I mean, I understand that we’re a more man-based sport. Of course that’s kinda like my role is just trying to inspire women to kind of identify more themselves with my story. Like, hey, moms can fight—or even if they’re not moms but women. Maybe sometimes they get scared like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna fight and maybe not be too feminine anymore. But we can still say the same. So I know that we have (a) more male base. And of course, if you can see a hot girl fighting and also she’s pregnant—I already was having problems with making weight before, so everyone’s just kinda like, I guess they just left and, ‘OK, she’s never gonna come back to fighting, nothing.’ And it was good. For me it was like, ‘OK, I need to prove everyone wrong.’”
As her charge to the title continues, Dern will look to get past fellow contender Marina Rodriguez in this weekend’s UFC Vegas 39 main event. While the 28-year-old will ride a four-fight win streak into Saturday’s headliner, the 34-year-old will look to carry the momentum from consecutive triumphs over Amanda Ribas and Michelle Waterson into her clash with Dern.
Who do you think will have their hand raised in the UFC Vegas 39 main event, Mackenzie Dern or Marina Rodriguez?