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Mackenzie Dern claims Carla Esparza turned down fight offer

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Mackenzie Dern is lined up to face Marina Rodriguez next.

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 Mackenzie Dern faces Miranda Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Vegas 39
Mackenzie Dern celebrating her win over Nina Nunes at the UFC APEX.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

At UFC on ABC: Vettori vs. Holland in April, Mackenzie Dern extended her current winning streak to four-fights; with a submission over Nina Nunes. Prior to that win she took a decision over Virna Jandiroba and submitted Randa Markos and Hannah Cifers.

The strawweight now has an 11-1 record, with her sole loss coming against Amanda Ribas in 2019. Dern’s latest run of form has many believing that the BJJ ace is closing in on a potential title shot.

Dern recently told James Lynch of LowKickMMA that she almost booked a fight that, had she won, would have certainly thrown her name into title contention.

“[The UFC] offered Carla Esparza,” claimed Dern. “But I think maybe she wanted to wait for the belt. So who knows? Maybe being in a good fight in the main event [against Marina Rodriguez], I can jump in front and maybe go to the belt.“

Esparza, the promotion’s first ever strawweight champion, has been surging as of late. She has a five fight win streak, which she extended with a TKO win over Yan Xiaonan in May. After defeating Yan, many—including Esparza—thought she was in pole position to face Rose Namajunas for the title (the fighter she beat to claim the belt back in 2014).

“She had a great performance, you know,” said Dern of Esparza’s most recent fight. “So I don’t think she got injured or anything in that fight but, I don’t know how good her camp was, she was probably tired—just take a little time.“

Dern said that she empathized with Esparza thinking she had a claim to the next title shot against Namajunas. However, the Brazilian added that Numajunas rematching Zhang Weili for the title made a lot of sense.

“As soon as they gave it to Zhang Weili [the title shot], ‘Hey, lets me and you (Esparza) do the fight’, but she had some things going on and she wanted to wait for the belt,” continued Dern. “And they offered Marina [Rodriguez], so I don’t wanna stay waiting for Carla to want to fight and waiting to see who wins between Rose and Zhang Weili.“

Dern vs. Rodriguez is currently booked to headline UFC Vegas 39 at the UFC APEX on October 9. This will be Dern’s first ever UFC main event. Rodriguez, who is 14-1-2, headlined last time out at UFC Vegas 26 in May. There she beat Michelle Waterson. Prior to that she scored a TKO over Ribas and lost a split decision to Esparza.