Mackenzie Dern discusses his decision to fight Marina Rodriguez, despite a knee injury which required surgery


Mackenzie Dern was just one week away from her first UFC main event when disaster struck.

In her last sparring session prior to preparing for her flight to Las Vegas the mixed martial arts champion and decorated grappler suffered an intractable knee injury. This caused her severe, constant pain. She should probably have notified UFC immediately that she had been injured and was withdrawing from her fight with Marina Rodriguez. She was confused by the enormity of the situation.

“I would ask for a pullout if the fight was just a 3-round bout on the prelims or if the fight was on the maincard but not a title fight fight. It’s not my intention to withdraw, but I am seeing it as a possibility. You need to think more about yourself, not just putting on a show. When I ask for a fight in UFC, I get one. Then I feel the pressure to win the fight .”


According to Dern she was unsure about the reaction she would get if she pulled out or asked for a pushback from the promotion. The main event on the next UFC card also had a late modification.

“I remember thinking, this is my first main event, I don’t want to pull out,” Dern said. Maybe they will just move it. They might give Marina another person, and I will lose this chance. I could win. I felt that I was still capable of winning, no matter how difficult.

“Then, I noticed that Holly Holm pulled out from her fight against Norma [Dumont] a week later than me. It was a very important moment for me as it was my first major .”


When it came to dealing with the injury during the fight, Dern said her knee wasn’t necessarily compromised, but there was no denying the mental strain it caused.

“The week of the fight, I wasn’t really able to move, I wasn’t able to train,” Dern explained. “I was just kind of trying to recover and not show anything. To see if my knee was not swelling and to determine if it would be possible to calm down so that I can get back to normal movement. After a few moves, I get out of the way and she kicks my knee slightly. It’s not too painful, but it is important to maintain distance. But suddenly you start to think.

” In the fight, if you think you are late, it’s because you’re not paying attention. It’s already one second too late. You need to be ahead. You always need to be ahead, ahead, ahead. I think unconsciously it affected me a little bit, but not too much movement or pain or anything like that. Thinking about my knee and my movements is more important than thinking about it. Thinking I need to explode and get to her, but not being confident about putting weight on my knee. I think definitely my mindset is what caught me, and I feel like if I would have just stayed concentrated and thought about beating her instead of thinking about me, I would have been able to bring more to the fight, but that’s experience.”

Ultimately, Dern lost a unanimous decision to Rodriguez. As a reward, she did earn her first fight of the night bonus.

Dern initially tried to avoid surgery, but two weeks after the fight ended, she felt her knee lock up again and wasn’t able to move her leg at all. It was then that she had to concede that going under the knife was the only way her knee would be repaired from the damage already done.

” “I tore the meniscus,” she said. “I tried physical therapy because one of the doctors they wanted to try to repair it with [surgery], but I don’t want stitches because they said that’s three months without weight bearing [on the leg]. The doctor said that physical therapy was not possible. So, I decided to go ahead and try it. After the fight I was able to stay two weeks with no training. I went to Madison Square Garden, I watched Zhang Weili and Rose [Namajunas] live. It was a bit overwhelming. I think I’m good to go back to training.

” My first training, it flipped, and the flap on my meniscus locked so that my knee couldn’t be unlocked. This was probably the first surgery that I was happy to do because then I could actually walk again. I wasn’t able to walk, I wasn’t able to do anything. I wish I would have done the surgery just right after my fight instead of waiting the two weeks to see if it would get better and that way maybe I could have come back faster.”

The injury happened on the same knee where Dern had ACL reconstruction back in 2012. She said her leg nowfeels better than ever after surgery. She doesn’t necessarily regret taking the fight with Rodriguez, even if it resulted in a loss, but she also learned a valuable lesson about the choices she makes with her career.

” If it occurs now, I don’t think I would feel bad about admitting that I was hurt,” Dern stated. It was especially interesting to see Holly Holm, as well as high-level champions and athletes doing that all the time .”

She sees the UFC 273 matchup as an opportunity to redeem herself. Not only is she healthy again, but she likes the fact that Torres presents the same kind of problems as Rodriguez.

” I’m excited to face Tecia now [that it’s] It will be a similar style,” Dern stated. She gets many decisions. She has good cardio. She goes most of the rounds. She kind of gets in, makes her points and then moves. Gets in, makes her points and then moves. A lot of footwork but I’ll have the reach in this fight so I’m looking forward to working on my footwork and also, too, just to get her close to me for her to make her points but that’s kind of my moment to get her to the ground.

“I feel like Tecia’s a good fight for me to recover the mistakes I made against Marina.”