Mackenzie Dern is getting a lot of attention as we barrel down on the UFC 224 pay-per-view (PPV) event. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace competes on Saturday night’s (May 12, 2018) main card (see it) opposite rugged boxing standout Amanda Bobby Cooper.
That’s a pretty impressive feat for a fighter who is just 1-0 in her Octagon career. Even more so when you consider her UFC debut, a split decision over the middling Ashley Yoder, was a sloppy, less-than-impressive performance.
So why all the hype? It’s not like the promotion is trying to lock down the local market. UFC 224 features Amanda Nunes, Ronaldo Souza, and Vitor Belfort, just to name a few, who are sufficiently worshipped in their native Brazil. Outside of this weekend, we still have Jose Aldo, Cris Cyborg, and Rafael dos Anjos.
I guess it’s no secret the new owners of UFC are more interested in building stars than athletes, but I’m not sure if that’s feasible in mixed martial arts (MMA), where the margin for error is so tiny. In sports like baseball and basketball, one bad night can be forgotten with a big performance the following evening.
Compounding the problem is the bizarre way Dern has chosen to market herself. We’ve already discussed her inconsistent accent ad nauseam, but it’s not just a Portuguese inflection or the fact that she inexplicably needs a translator ... it’s her weird, caveman-like affectation that causes her to talk like she was hit in the head with a brick.
“When I was really committed to take down, I was able to take down.”
Dern, who was born in the United States and graduated from Ironwood High School in Glendale, Arizona, could end up fizzling out like Paige VanZant, another chipper upstart who had the “it factor.” That may depend on her performances inside the cage, as well as how much of her evolving persona fans are willing to overlook.
We also know how well other fighters handle special treatment.
There is no questioning her accomplishments on the grappling circuit. But UFC is forcing her into the limelight and she may not be polished enough to deliver on the hype, both as a fighter and as a celebrity. That takes time and more importantly victories, and that may explain why she’s facing an opponent with three submission losses.
For a much closer look at Dern vs. Cooper click here.