Should the UFC decide to create an interim title at strawweight, Mackenzie Dern is ‘definitely interested’ in fighting Zhang Weili for it.
Weili earned a championship opportunity against Carla Esparza with a second-round knockout of Joanna Jędrzejczyk at UFC 275 earlier this month. ‘Magnum’ proposed the fight with ‘Cookie Monster’ happens at UFC 281 in October, but the reigning champion rejected said proposal as she is dealing with a dislocated thumb sustained before her title-winning effort against Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 this past May.
Esparza does not expect to be on the sidelines for long, though. She recently told Damon Martin of MMA Fighting that once she gets the results from two MRIs on her thumb and receives clearance to begin training again, she will be ready to defend by the end of the year. That said, interim titles have been created as champions are recovering from injuries, so one could be introduced here. If it is, Dern has begun planting seeds to be considered for that opportunity.
“If they do have an interim title, I would like to be in there,” Dern told Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie. “Fight Zhang Weili or whoever it will be. I’m definitely interested in that. I’m ready. I’m taking with Mick [Maynard]. I even sent a message to [UFC president] Dana [White]. I’m like, ‘Hey Dana, I’m ready for whoever it is, I’m ready.’ My manager Tim [Simpson] from Paradigm. They’ve been talking so, a lot of names have been thrown out: Yan Xiaonan, Rose, Zhang Weili has been talked about in the past, so I don’t know how serious they are about that. But definitely I’d be ready for any one of those girls.
“For me, I’ve been training since my last fight so I’m ready,” continued Dern. “It can be August, October — hopefully not too long. I want to fight pretty soon, keep the wins coming, keep my training on point. But yeah I think if I could get that interim title if that fight doesn’t happen would be a pleasure. It would be awesome.”
Because Weili was declared the No. 1 contender in the division, Dern knows she would automatically be one-half of a potential interim title fight. But if the UFC needs to find an opponent for her, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace is ready to test herself against the former champion.
Dern has expressed interest in Weili before, but the fight did not materialize.
“Zhang Weili continues to show she can throw crazy stuff at you and you need to be prepared,” said Dern. “I definitely would like to face her eventually. I think that would be a great fight. I don’t think she’s ever fought someone with my jiu-jitsu caliber, but yeah. Definitely would be a great fight. We’ll see what happens.”
Dern returned to the win column with a split decision over Tecia Torres at UFC 273 in April. The RVCA representative was previously on a four-fight win streak before dropping a unanimous decision to Marina Rodriguez last year.