Mackenzie Dern was confident that she could hit the strawweight limit until the night before the official weigh-ins, despite arriving in Brazil for the UFC 224 fight week at 139.5 pounds.
On Friday, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu star was the talk of the MMA world when she came in seven pounds over the strawweight maximum for her showdown with Amanda Cooper.
“I started to get nervous on Thursday night,” Dern told Ariel Helwani on the latest episode of The MMA Hour.
“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.”
Dern insisted her team “did everything we could” to get her weight down on Friday morning. She had stopped her cut on Thursday night when her body stopped shedding water.
“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.”
She claims that the Brazilian commission, and the UFC called a halt to her cut at 9 a.m. for fear that she would not be able to compete if she continued.
“[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.”
At one point during the weight cut, Dern was unable to stand up.
“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,” Dern explained.
“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.”
Even Dern highlighted that she could list “tons of excuses” as to why she didn’t make weight, from her flight to Brazil to her diet. However, something that may have definitely had an impact on her final cut is the Brazilian commission requesting a pre-weigh-in to prove that she could eventually hit the strawweight mark.
Dern revealed that she needed to dehydrate herself to hit their number.
“[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.”
The black belt claims she arrived in Brazil at 139.5 pounds, but even though she was 23-pounds off strawweight at that time, she still though it was within reach.
“When I arrived I weight 139 pounds and a half. And then, on Wednesday, I was 131,” she said.
“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.”