Mackenzie Dern isn’t just any fighter. Now, she’s a Jiu-Jitsu black belt. And she was reminded of just how special she is early, when she was congratulated on the promotion over Twitter by UFC champion Ben Henderson.
The one who fastened the belt around the Gracie Humaitá rep’s waist was her father, Wellington “Megaton” Dias. A resident of Arizona, Mackenzie will be making her debut at her new rank at the Long Beach Fall Open this coming weekend. And in January, she’ll have her work cut out for her when she takes on Marina Ribeiro in the Copa Pódio Couples Challenge.
In the following exclusive GRACIEMAG.com interview, Mackenzie explains how her training is coming and shares her excitement about receiving the new belt.
GRACIEMAG.com: How’s your training for the Long Beach Open coming? Are you shouldering more responsibility now?
MACKENZIE DERN: My training’s been going great. I’m training here in Arizona with my dad and my boyfriend, Augusto Tanquinho, along with the rest of our team. A week from now I’ll be going to Brazil to train with my team, Gracie Humaitá, as well as the guys from Tanquinho’s team, Soul Fighters. I know it’s the end of the year, but there are a lot of folks stoked to train Jiu-Jitsu, and that will help me a lot. I know I’ll carry on really focused for my Copa Pódio match.
What are your expectations now you’re competing as a black belt?
I’m thrilled. I expect the best. I want to repeat the success I had at other belts at black belt. I know that will depend on lots of training, determination and making as few mistakes as possible, but I’m anxious and at the same time happy to have this experience of being a black belt.
You faced Marina when you were a brown belt, at the Abu Dhabi WPJJC, and you won. Now you will meet again, at “Desafio de Casais” (Couples Challenge). What do you expect in this fight with Marina Ribeiro?
I think it will be really difficult. She’s an excellent fighter, has lots of technique and experience, took second as a black belt at the 2012 Worlds. I’m a new black belt looking to carve out a place for myself among the more-experienced fighters. It has all the makings of a good match. With our having faced each other once before, I feel this will be a tougher match, as we’re already familiar with each other.
What are your plans for 2013?
I want to compete every month! I’m focused on trying to win the 2013 Worlds, and I really want to compete at the ADCC, the traditional grappling tournament founded by Sheikh Tahnoon. I won the ADCC tryouts in San Diego but unfortunately it didn’t award women with paid travel to the main event. But I’m going to keep on competing.