Amanda Cooper prepared for Mackenzie Dern to ‘probably come in heavy’ at UFC 224

UFC strawweight, and former TUF finalist, Amanda Cooper (3-3) heads into Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, fully-embracing the role of heel and potential spoiler. It’s…

By: Tim Bissell | 5 years ago
Amanda Cooper prepared for Mackenzie Dern to ‘probably come in heavy’ at UFC 224
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

UFC strawweight, and former TUF finalist, Amanda Cooper (3-3) heads into Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, fully-embracing the role of heel and potential spoiler. It’s there, on Saturday night, that she faces the much-hyped Mackenzie Dern (6-0) on the main card of UFC 224.

To earn her shot against the BJJ ace, Cooper pounded out the unabashed Angela Magana. Cooper met Magana at UFC 218 in December securing her second win in the promotion in the process.

“It felt really good with my performance and how I trained leading up to the fight. I felt good about where I was mentally,” Cooper told Bloody Elbow. “Angela’s a tough opponent, she hadn’t been finished by a lot of good people who are ranked in the top 15. So I’m happy that I got the finish. I’m happy that I dominated. It was a good win for me, it was great, but I guess I would have liked a little bit harder competition.”

Cooper’s desire for harder competition will likely be satiated this weekend. Dern is an IBJJF World (Gi and No-Gi), Pan American, and European Open Champion. She’s the daughter of Wellington ‘Megaton’ Dias, a fifth degree black belt under Royler Gracie. Dern switched to MMA in 2016. Since then she has wins over Montana De La Rosa, Kaline Medeiros, and Ashley Yoder (who she beat by split decision in her UFC debut in March).

“I obviously think her jiu jitsu is very good,” said Cooper, enthusiastically, before picking apart the rest of her opponent’s game. “She’s not developed herself into a great mixed martial artist, yet. Her striking is very predictable, very wild. It’s pretty easy to see that. Every fight it’s the exact same. Her wrestling is not great. She’s got a little bit of judo, but it’s mainly just jiu jitsu she’s been doing. And in my opinion she fights too close together and really doesn’t take the time to get better and evolve.”

Despite knocking Dern’s all-around MMA skills, Cooper thinks the hype and excitement around the 25-year-old is well earned. “Well I think her attention is deserved. Maybe not for MMA, but her whole life in jiu jitsu she’s been competing at the top level and winning.”

“So the attention she’s getting now is well deserved. But, it’s perfect for me because obviously I’m the opponent they are bringing in to lose and have Mackenzie win in front of her home. So for me to go into her home territory and defeat her, while being an underdog, would be an especially good thing for my career and my confidence.”

Dern was born and raised in Arizona, though she’s spent a lot of her life in her father’s hometown of Rio. Saturday night’s crowd at the Jeunesse Arena will most likely be backing Dern. This doesn’t bother Cooper at all. In fact, she likes it.

Cooper, a Michigander, beat Magana in Detroit. She enjoyed fighting so close to home, with friends and family in attendance. But, as she explained, she much prefers to fight on the road. “It’s nice to not have people there and to just focus on myself, focus on the fight.”

The American stated that she also “loves traveling” and has enjoyed visiting Brazil in the past. She’s excited to perform for what she predicts will be a rabid and partisan crowd. And Cooper added, in particular, that she was looking forward to hearing Brazil’s infamous ‘death chant’ of uh vai morrer.

“I’ve been to fights in Brazil,” said Cooper. “I know who they are. I love it. And I know what [that chant] means. I really enjoy the fact that they are so in to MMA. I love it. They love it. They love fighting. They love jiu jitsu. They love it all. So I’m really excited. I’ve already visualized the walkout and getting booed and nobody cheering for me … I can easily see that happening, but either way I think fans in Brazil are really great!”

“I’m an entertainer. I really do like it when people are into my fight and I can’t wait for it,” she went on to explain, before addressing a comment Dern made in a recent interview.

In an interview with Damon Martin of MMAWeekly, Dern said, “I know that she’s talking a lot” before explaining that “it’s different” for her to be fighting someone who was “talking so bad” about her. Dern also advised Cooper that, “The best way to fight in Brazil is to be a little quieter and try to get the crowd on your side, not against you.”

Cooper laughed as these quotes were relayed to her. “Well I don’t think I’ve been disrespectful,” she responded. “I’ve said what I’ve thought. That this is the entertainment business and that I obviously think her jiu jitsu is really good.”

“I’ve trained hard for this fight. I have a tough opponent, but there are holes in her game. There’s so much predictability to her game. I haven’t said anything that nobody else hasn’t said. So no trash talk, just talking. Just saying how I feel — and being confident — and whether the fans disagree with what I say or not, that’s how I feel and that’s what I’m going with.”

Though Cooper is relishing a passionate fan reaction in Brazil, she’s not thrilled with the location’s reputation for difficult weight cutting conditions. In February, at UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Anders in Belèm, multiple fighters struggled and missed weight due to the fighter hotel not having hot water.

Cooper said fighters are staying with the same hotel chain for this event and that, because of this, she is taking precautions. “I’ve packed and brought all the necessary stuff I need to cut weight,” she revealed. “I’ve brought a hot plate in case I need to boil water for the bath. I already have that stuff packed up, so nothing can surprise me or shock me. I’m ready to deal with whatever.”

However, Cooper’s not convinced that her opponent, who has struggled with weight cuts in the past, will fare as well. “She will probably come in heavy, I have a feeling, or have a hard time making weight. I plan on leaving cookies outside her door every night because I’m sure she won’t be able to resist it. And that way I get 20 percent of her purse and still get to beat her up at home.”

Cooper made it clear that no matter what Dern weighed in at, she would “100 percent” still take the fight. “I’ve trained too hard and gone through everything I needed to do for a fight. Now I just have to get that high of getting my hand raised.”

To see if Cooper can win out over the highly-favoured Dern, tune in to the main card of UFC 224 on Saturday night. It begins at 10PM ET and is available on pay-per-view.

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Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

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