Raquel Pennington and her questionable corner may be dominating the narrative coming out of UFC 224, but, going in everyone was talking about Mackenzie Dern. The former world champion black belt has an inescapable air of high expectations around her, and when she missed weight by seven pounds for her strawweight bout against Amanda Cooper, questions about her dedication and potential fighting future leapt to the forefront.
The Brazilian Athletic Commission (CAB), on the other hand, leapt toward her pocket book. In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani on the MMA hour, Dern revealed that outside the normal 30% of her show money – all of which went to Cooper in this instance (normally 10% goes to the commission) – Cooper also got 15% of Dern’s win bonus as well. According to MMA Mania, that makes $13,050 total, of Dern’s $29k/$29k purse (or $58,000 in final earnings).
“She got 30 percent of my purse, when it’s usually 20. But, because I was so much heavier, it goes up to 30-percent,” Dern explained (transcript via MMA Mania). “I think she was confident in the fight and we are giving her 30 percent. And we are giving 15 percent extra, too, if I was to win. It was an extra 15 percent extra. So I would have accepted the fight, too. I know she wanted to fight and everything. But, I wasn’t surprise she accepted the fight. I was hoping she would and was grateful she accepted.”
“Thirty percent of my show money, which is the commission, the UFC, it’s what everybody has to do if they miss weight. And between us together, just between the fighters, we did a negotiation to have the fight happen ... 15 percent if I would win (bonus) of my purse.”
And while that may seem like a hefty fine, it sounds like Dern is lucky that she got paid at all. While Cooper may have called it from a mile out, that her opponent would have trouble on the scales come the day – and even announced ahead of time that she’d take the fight regardless – the CAB nearly pulled the plug on the whole thing, when Dern came in to fight week at 139.5 lbs; a full 23.5 lbs above the strawweight limit.
“[The commission] wanted to pull me on Tuesday when I arrived,” Dern revealed (transcript via MMA Fighting). “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.”
Eventually, when her body stopped shedding water in the sauna, CAB and UFC officials pulled the plug on her weight cut, telling her that she would be unable to compete, even in a catchweight bout, if she continued attempting to dehydrate.
“[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.”
The fight did go ahead, as scheduled, with Dern defeating Cooper via first round submission – behind a clubbing overhand right that dropped Cooper to the mat. Dern has since revealed that the UFC is interested in moving her to the flyweight division, however she’s hoping that with a better focus on nutrition and time at the UFC’s Performance Institute, she’ll be able to remain at strawweight for the foreseeable future.