Mackenzie Dern ‘unleashed anger’ of bitter divorce and custody battle in UFC Octagon

Mackenzie Dern was facing serious personal problems ahead of her fight against Angela Hill.

By: Lucas Rezende | 4 months ago
Mackenzie Dern ‘unleashed anger’ of bitter divorce and custody battle in UFC Octagon
May 20, 2023, Las Vegas, Nevada, Las Vegas, NV, United States: LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 20: Mackenzie Dern top controls the body of Angela Hill in their Women s Strawweight bout during the UFC Vegas 73 event at UFC Apex on May 20, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. Las Vegas, Nevada United States - ZUMAp175 20230520_zsa_p175_324 Copyright: xLouisxGrassex

Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Mackenzie Dern scored an important victory at UFC Vegas 73’s main event. While the blackbelt continues to climb the strawweight ladder towards the division’s title, the win over Angela Hill came around a time of personal struggle for Dern.

Mackenzie Dern was going through a rough divorce

Dern recently made accusations of domestic violence against her estranged husband, professional surfer Wesley Santos. The grappler filed for divorce while training to fight Angela Hill at UFC Vegas 73 on May 20.

In an interview with MMA Fighting’s podcast Trocacao Franca, Dern revealed she was ready to withdraw from the fight due to the stress that these personal issues were causing. However, because she needed the money to pay for all of her expenses, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt decided to endure it and go through with the fight as planned.

“The first month [of camp], I swear I thought about pulling out of the fight,” Mackenzie Dern said . “Lawyers, my ex wanting things, trying to find evidence of things, saying I’m a negligent mother. Imagine me as a mother, I get punched in the face, to be fighting for my daughter, I have to win a fight because I have bills to pay, to pay a house for my daughter, and someone you live with for three years – someone you’ve helped get a green card and support his dreams – is saying you’re negligent, say lies about me.

“Imagine all that, to be defending yourself for a judge and lawyers? All that during a camp. I had so much to lose. We’re always prepared. We’ll give everything we have. We know the consequences. We can get hurt in a fight, we can lose sponsors, we can lose value as a fighter, but let’s go. It all worked out in the end. And all I do is for my daughter.”

Dern had a lot of anger bottled up ahead of UFC Vegas 73

When the time to finally face Hill in the Octagon came, Dern said she had a lot of bottled up energy ready to be unleashed. Though the grappler is not saying she took it all out on her opponent, she admits it did feel good having a way to get all of those feelings out of her system.

“I was unleashing anger,” Dern said with a laugh. “It’s not only emotion, of course. I was motivated. I needed to win. I needed a bonus. I needed all the money I could get because of everything I was going through, the [divorce]. All that and my desire to win since I was coming off a loss. I had anger, I was letting it all out, but I also evolved in this camp.

“I don’t want people to think it was only anger during the fight, unleashing it all on Angela, you know? I really have a better idea of [the sport] now. The motivation in this fight was everything I’m going through, the divorce, my ex-husband and all that, but people can see that — I wouldn’t call it a new Mackenzie, but an evolved Mackenzie.”

Dern believes a match against Rose Namajunas makes sense

The win over Hill helped Mackenzie Dern (13-3) recover from a majority decision loss to Yan Xiaonan in her previous outing, back in October 2022. For now, the 30-year-old does not have any other fights lined up, but she did express an interest in taking on former champion Rose Namajunas, too. According to the BJJ ace, it is the only fight that makes sense going forward.

“I think the only way it doesn’t happen is if she really doesn’t want to fight,” Dern said. “I don’t see other opponent for me at this time. Jessica [Andrade] is coming off two losses. And the way Dana White has said about my performance, anything can happen. I just want to train and stay strong and focused to get to the belt.”

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About the author
Lucas Rezende
Lucas Rezende

Lucas Rezende is a Brazilian journalist and writer from Belem, Para. He has been covering MMA since 2012 and contributing with Bloody Elbow since March 2015. When not writing, Lucas also teaches English. In his free time, he enjoys reading, slapping the bass guitar and traveling.

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