Mackenzie Dern may never have seen Ronda Rousey as an inspiration for her own MMA career (something she was adamant about back in 2017), but that hasn’t stopped fans and pundits from drawing the comparison. And it hasn’t stopped Dern from using the former UFC superstar and pro wrestler as a potential benchmark for her own success.
The Parillo-trained talent is fresh off a scrappy win over fellow BJJ ace Virna Jandiroba at UFC 256. After the victory, she sat down to speak with the assembled press, where the spectre of Rousey was once again raised.
“I kind just set my goal on breaking records,” Dern said of her career (transcript via MMA Mania). “Ronda broke records, I’m gonna break more records. I’m just focused on that, one straight line, you know the horse has the [blinders]. It was a pleasure for me that everyone was saying that, but it was pretty easy for me to focus on my own goals and try to be a legend.”
It’s not a new refrain from Dern on the subject. Even as far back as that 2017 interview, Dern made it clear that when it comes to the UFC’s former golden goose, the goal is to be “bigger than,” not inspired by. “I think I have a different image and I can be a different kind of role model,” Dern explained at the time. “I have a different style to her, and I want to take that as far as possible.”
To date, Dern’s transition to MMA, hasn’t been near as dominant as the former Strikeforce & UFC champion’s. Rousey picked up her first major piece of MMA hardware just one year into her pro MMA career, besting Miesha Tate for the Strikeforce belt. A year later, and Rousey defended her UFC belt for the first time, become the first woman to fight in the Octagon in the process. At the point where Dern is in her 4+ year career, Rousey was at the height of her championship reign—and just gearing up to take on Holly Holm.
That said, as long as Dern intends to stick around MMA, she’ll likely have plenty more opportunity to assure her own legacy. And maybe, sooner or later, shed the comparisons to the former women’s bantamweight queen.