Mackenzie Dern would love to settle into a routine whenever she has a fight coming up but that’s just not realistic because somehow life always gets in the way.
Ahead of her last outing against Angela Hill in May, the 30-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion revealed that she was going through a tumultuous divorce with her ex-husband that also included a custody battle for their daughter. While her divorce was finalized, Dern admits that a difficult situation like that in her personal life never just goes away so she’s learned to thrive through the chaos.
“I realized we always have problems,” Dern said during UFC 295 media day. “Just the pressure. The last one I went through the divorce. The divorce is final but you don’t realize how much aftermath there is to it. Literally, this whole fight is still paying my ex. It’s crazy, I have to get punched in the face and you work so hard and you do all this and you have to like pay that much of something.
“Money’s something, I’ll fight here, I’ll get it, whatever. Winning or losing, everything’s going to be taken care of. I’ll make more [money] and stuff like that but it’s just problems.”
On top of turmoil in her personal life, Dern also had to restructure her training camp to get ready for Jessica Andrade at UFC 295 after her former gym shut down.
She ultimately spent time working with former two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo as well as setting up her own private training sessions at home but it was just another example that fighters are almost always riding a rollercoaster ahead of every fight.
“RVCA closed so I basically made my own home gym,” Dern explained. “You just keep investing in your dream and hope that it works. I’m trying to make everything private at home because you’re just very vulnerable when everyone’s seeing your training. I’m a world champion in jiu-jitsu but people see me in the gym and I’m crying, I’m frustrated because I feel I should be better at something. I feel like I should be able to get it and I don’t get it. It’s not working.
“There’s injuries and there’s a ton of stuff that keeps going on and you’re like I just want to be able to train and get better. I don’t know. In the fight it comes out. It all works out.”
Of course, Dern also takes responsibility for injecting a little extra chaos into her own life at times but she’s also become an expert at overcoming whatever gets thrown at her.
“I got a new puppy — I think I even invent more problems, more chaos,” Dern said with a laugh. “I thrive on that, the craziness. The puppy and all these things. Getting used to splitting your daughter half of the time with you, half of the time with the dad and all these things. You’re learning so many new dynamics in your routine.
“My whole life when I was training to be a world champion in jiu-jitsu, my best times of being a world champion was when I had a routine and I had a schedule and you’re able to keep focused. I think that’s why it’s hard to be a mom and try to be a world champion, to be the champion in the UFC because you need to be consistent in your training. When you don’t feel you’re consistent in your day-to-day life, one day is this, one day is that, you’re like I just need to train. You just make it work.”
Dern promises that nothing she’s revealed serves as any kind of an excuse, especially knowing that every fighter in the UFC deals with similar issues.
Ironically enough, Andrade revealed that she was going through a divorce of her own ahead of UFC 295, which is why Dern acknowledges that these types of problems certainly aren’t exclusive to her.
“It definitely wasn’t easy but I understand that’s what everyone goes through,” Dern said. “Everyone’s having problems. Everyone has injuries, we’re fighters. I think Jessica, she talked about she had a divorce, too.
“It’s kind of crazy the fans get to watch us let out all of our stress and everything on another person in a fight but that’s what we’re trained for. That’s what makes the victory more special.”