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Mackenzie Dern aiming to make UFC debut in 2017

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Esther Lin / MMA Fighting

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is always in the market for the next female mixed martial arts (MMA) star. If world-renowned grappling sensation Mackenzie Dern had it her way in 2017, she’ll be that next star. But the 23-year-old jiu-jitsu wizard understands that the rest of her game must evolve if she wants to make a solid run inside of the Octagon.

"The big thing right now is my standup," said Dern in a recent interview with FloCombat. "I'm still a little bit active in jiu-jitsu right now even though they are pushing me to go 100 percent just MMA. It's so hard for me to leave the jiu-jitsu game and I'm not quite ready to do that. My jiu-jitsu timing is still very good, we are really just working the standup."

Dern has some experience in professional MMA, producing a 2-0 record in Legacy Fighting Championship in 2016, but the American has leaned heavily on her grappling skills. With age on her side, Dern is ready to take a tactical approach to her MMA career and set up a potential UFC debut later this summer.

"Right now I did the Europeans this year. I came back and had a superfight for 'Fight to Win,'" added Dern. "I would like to do the Pan American Championships, which is one weekend after my upcoming MMA fight so I'm hoping I don't get injured. Right now I am [ranked] No. 1 in the world [in jiu-jitsu], so I would like to go into the UFC being No. 1 in the world. The ranking finishes at the Worlds, then hopefully I can make my debut in the UFC this year, maybe in June or July. I would like to do that.

"I told myself when I'm in the UFC then I'll be 100 percent [MMA]. Maybe if I don't have a fight coming up maybe I'll do a superfight or do the ADCC, but not doing all these other tournaments I've been doing so much. It's addicting. So addicting."

With looks to match her unparalleled skill set on the ground, Dern has what it takes to excel under UFC watch. But as an up-and-coming strawweight, she’ll have to exclusively work on her striking if he wants to compete alongside the likes of UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jessica Andrade, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Michelle Waterson.