A world champion at every belt on her way up to black, Mackenzie Dern, 19, is shouldering a lot of expectations as she enters her first IBJJF tournament at the highest rank.
The daughter of Wellington Megaton made her black belt debut last Sunday, when she took on Luiza Monteiro of Cícero Costha Team at the Copa Pódio Couples Showdown, which she won and celebrated with her boyfriend Augusto Mendes.
In the match, Mackenzie was undaunted by the task at hand and went on an all-out attack, even trying for a footlock, and won by 8-2.
In the following conversation with GRACIEMAG.com, Mackenzie assures us that she’ll be sticking her neck out in the black belt absolute in Lisbon, details what she expects to encounter there and looks back on her stellar Copa Pódio performance. Check out what she has to say!
GRACIEMAG: What’s your assessment of your black belt debut, a six-minute match with Luiza?
MACKENZIE DERN: It was my first match at black belt, and it was a good start. I went in with a lot of desire to win. It was a pleasure to face a warrior like Luiza, who made our fight more dynamic and fun for the Rio crowd to watch! I was overjoyed to win the Couples Showdown and share this memory with my boyfriend.
You started out with a handicap, since Leandro Lo ended up scoring 5 to 2 against Tanquinho. Did that make a difference for you?
To me it made no difference, even with the disadvantage in points. I felt like, since I was already losing, I had nothing to lose! So I tried to forget Tanquinho’s match with Leandro and just do my best, fight on the attack. I learned that the recipe for fighting well is to keep your head on straight and go in with a lot of will to win.
Now the European Open is coming up in late January. You’ve been training hard—think you’ll go for the absolute?
My preparations have been excellent. Because of Copa Pódio I was already training a lot, so I just have to keep up the pace for another week. I’ll be training here in Rio until Saturday. After that I’ll spend two days at my dad’s academy in the USA and wrap up training for the 2013 European Open. You’ll surely see me in the absolute in Portugal. It’s always fun to fight in the absolute, and I don’t want to stop now.
Have you put together a special game plan for winning the European Open?
My strategy is to go in to win. I don’t know for sure if I’ll win, lose, pull guard or play on top, but I do know that I’ll do my best and put up a fight. It’s only the beginning of the year, so I want to get in rhythm for the Worlds. I have my goals at black belt and will do all I need to to accomplish them. Most of my matches will be against experienced black belts, but that’s something that only time can give me. So I’ll get ready by working on my mistakes, and we’ll see if I come up with good results this year.