Rising female MMA star Mackenzie Dern picked up her second UFC win over Amanda Bobby Cooper at last weekend’s UFC 224, and she did so in dominant style.
However, the first-round submission (watch highlights here) that had the crowd roaring in the Jeunesse Arena from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was overshadowed by the fact she had missed the 116-pound strawweight limit by an alarming seven pounds, the third time she had missed weight in her seven-fight pro MMA career.
Dern expressed her embarrassment at the negligent miss directly after the fight, but during an appearance on this week’s edition of The MMA Hour, she opened up about how difficult the weight cut truly was. According to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wiz, she began to notice issues with the cut when she spent hours in the sauna without any weight coming off:
“I started to get nervous on Thursday night. I spoke to my manager. In Vegas, I had a close weight cut, but in Vegas I was 100 percent positive I was going to make the weight even though I was the last one to weigh in. In Brazil, I told my manager on Thursday, ‘This isn’t like Vegas where the whole time I’m positive.’
“On Thursday night, I was doing a lot of hours in the sauna and the weight wasn’t coming off; I was just losing 500 grams or 600 grams for every two hours. I told [my manager], ‘I don’t think I’m going to lose this many kilos in 24 hours.”
Indeed she did not, so she then detailed that when it became clear she would miss weight, the presiding athletic commission and UFC doctors present told her she had to quit cutting weight if she still wanted to face Cooper at a catchweight:
“We woke up 5:30 and went to the sauna, did everything again for two hours and the weight wasn’t coming off. I was sweating, and then I’d go to the scale, but nothing had come off.
“[The commission] said, ‘If you keep going then we won’t have a chance to do that fight because you won’t be able to move, if we have to do a catchweight or something you have to stop now’. It was 9 o’clock already when they made the decision,” she remembered.
“The UFC doctors were there, they went to sauna, they met me there. They were the ones who made the decision; it wasn’t me who wanted to stop. I went to the bathroom to check my weight and when I came back they put me on the chair and they started to give me some ice and I said, ‘No, I need to cut weight!’ They told me to drink and I didn’t understand why.”
Dern then described just how impactful the cut was, as she reached a point where she could no longer stand up due to being depleted:
“I felt my body not reacting well. The other times I didn’t make weight it was in my head. I started to trip out a little — well, not a little, a lot — that my body was shutting down.
“For this one, I felt like my mind was right, but I remember telling my coaches, ‘It’s hard for me to stand up’, I started to feel it in my legs. Then I went to the sauna two more times and then I wasn’t able to stand up anymore. The water came out of my legs and the muscles in my legs were starting to not respond. They thought I wouldn’t be able to fight.”
Based on that, it was obviously a beyond rough cut for Dern, who has been told she will compete at women’s flyweight in her next UFC bout.
But that didn’t only become apparent when she realized she could barely stand. In fact, the commission almost wanted to pull her from the card when she arrived in Brazil earlier in the week, so much so that she had to dehydrate early and make a target weight to even continue cutting:
“[The commission] wanted to pull me on Tuesday when I arrived. I said, ‘No, it’s okay, I just flew 14 hours and I drank a lot of water and I didn’t do any exercise, of course I’m going to be heavy’, but they made me make a weight the next day.
“I dehydrated two days early to show I could make a weight. When I made that weight on Wednesday, they allowed me to keep on cutting. It was a little bit crazy the weight cut because I had to do a pre-dehydration to show I could make the weight on Wednesday.”
Finally, Dern revealed how much she weighed when she landed in Brazil, and it was an astonishing 23 pounds over the strawweight limit:
“When I arrived I weighed 139 pounds and a half. And then, on Wednesday, I was 131. It’s not typical, I like to arrive at the fight week at 120, but honestly when I got there on Tuesday I wasn’t scared yet because I was on the plane and everything and I was drinking. For me, it was still possible.”