Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and describe in a few words how your jiu jitsu adventure started?
My name is Mackenzie Dern and I’m a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. My dad is black belt, Megaton Dias and my stepmom, Luciana Dias is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Fortunately, instead of a babysitter, my dad took me to his academy where he introduced me to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when I was 3 years old.
How long have you been training?
Well, my first tournament was when I was 6 years old, but I have been learning Jiu-Jitsu for 14 years starting when I was 3.
Where do you live and train at the moment?
Currently, I’m living in Arizona where I train with my dad at Megaton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy. But I’m actually in the process of moving to Brasil in February. There I will train at the Gracie Humaita headquarters in Rio.
With who do you spare the most?
On a daily basis I definitely train with my dad the most. We have specific trainings in the mornings and we have night classes where we train together again. I also go to San Diego a lot where I try to get as much training possible with Leticia Ribeiro at her academy and at Gracie San Diego.
Despite your young age you have had some success in various competitions, could you share with us some of your titles?
Yes, thankfully starting at a young age, good results are starting to appear and I have been able to make a few good accomplishments so far. My main titles are 4x World Champion all at blue belt. I am also 3x No-Gi World Champion, 2x American National Champion, European Champion, Rio International Champion weight and absolute, and South American Champion weight and absolute.
What is your biggest success and why?
My biggest success so far are probably my world titles. Of course winning a world title as a blue belt is not the same as winning when your a black belt. That for me is my biggest goal right now. But to be a 4x World Champion shows me that the dedication to my training is paying off. It feels so good once you accomplish something that you work so hard for. Of course the hard work does not end here, there are still many things I want to accomplish in my career 🙂
Your father is legendary Megaton Diaz, do you often train together? Does he give you a lot of tips?
Yes, I train with my dad a lot. Almost everyday we train together. Many people think that he teaches me secret moves, or takes me aside and teaches me special stuff, but it’s not like that at all. I learn positions and tips from him the same way his students do, by watching him teach positions in class and then drilling. When we roll its hard training all the time. . . He knows my weaknesses and puts me in bad situations and then I learn from him that way. Plus, we are almost always talking about positions, defenses, submissions, its always good getting his opinion!
Can you name a few fighters with whom you had the pleasure to roll and who made the biggest impression on you?
Luckily, I have been able to train with black belts like Royler Gracie, Leticia Ribeiro, Regis Lebre, Penny Thomas and also a lot of people from my generation like Beatriz Mesquita, Ana Carolina Vidal, and Zak Maxwell. I learn so many things from all of these people and they all have helped make me the fighter I am today. However, Leticia made one of the biggest impressions on me. Being committed to Jiu-Jitsu for women, a multiple time world champion and a great instructor Leticia is a big inspiration for me.
Beatriz Mesquita, Leticia Ribeiro and Mackenzie Dern
What are your plans for 2011?
My plans for 2011 are to be as consistent as possible. I plan to compete about every two months. So far, what I have planned are the Abu Dhabi Trials in Portugal, European Championships, Pan American Championships and Worlds. We will see what else comes up!
How does your training camp look like when you are preparing for the biggest competitions?
My training before a tournament is usually in San Diego. I go down there about 3 weeks before a tournament. I train in the mornings with Leticia and the girls from her camps. We also have Raphael Romano work with Ginastica Natural before the tournaments. After, is physical conditioning. By 3 weeks left I usually switch my strength training to my cardio and losing weight. Then of course we hit the sauna and pool for some relaxing! At night, I have intense training at Gracie San Diego. I follow this schedule until the day before the tournament.
What do you do apart from BJJ. What is Mackenzie Dem like, privately?
Aside from Jiu-Jitsu I am pretty active. I ride horses, snowboard and go to the movies. I spend a lot of time with my family and friends. A lot of the time I am traveling, so it is hard to have a specific routine. When in Brasil or San Diego, my friends and I stay on the beach and eat a lot of sushi. . two great things after Jiu-Jitsu 🙂
Big, popular fighters live BJJ. They train, give seminars and runt heir own academies. Do you also want to devote yourself entirely to the sports and try to making a living of it?
I made the decision to completely commit to my future in Jiu-Jitsu when I was 13 years old. If I can make a living by doing something I love, I will never have to work a day in my life! I have been lucky enough to help Leticia with some seminars and this year I will accompany my dad in a tour of seminars throughout Europe. Besides being a competitor, I am learning how to be a teacher so I can have a successful academy in the future.
Do you like fighting No-GI? Would you like to compete at ADCC one day?
I like Jiu-Jitsu, whether it is with or without the Gi. I think No-Gi is a lot faster and it is a challenge. I have fun with No-Gi. Yes, the ADCC is definitely on my To Do List. It is a prestigious tournament and I would love to eventually take part in it.
What do you like best in grappling, sweeps, takedowns, finishing techniques? What is your favorite action/technique?
I train hard to be as versatile as possible. I think it is really important to be comfortable no matter where you are, whether you are on top or on bottom. Because of this, I like almost everything. I am really comfortable with my sweeps, passes, and I also like take downs. Of course, there are certain positions I prefer than others. For example, I prefer open guard then closed guard. Catching the big is definitely one of my favorite positions 🙂
Many women consider BJJ to be a brutal sport, how would you encourage them to try jiu jitsu instead of going to fitness classes?
Jiu-Jitsu is translated as „the gentle art”. What martial art corzuld be better for girls then one that is called „the gentle art”? Jiu-Jitsu is to help a smaller/weaker person defend themselves from a bigger/stronger person. Not only does it provide a great self defense, especially for women but it keeps us in shape, giving cardio and toning the body.
Which female fighter is in your opinion number one in GI and NO-GI for this moment?
In my opinion, the best female competitor, with Gi, right now is Beatriz Mesquita. She went through the whole year competing almost every other month and she won almost everything. And for No-Gi, I think Michelle Nicolini did really good this year. At the No-Gi worlds she won the absolute and got 2nd place in her weight class.
Do you like watching MMA? Do you have a favorite fighter?
I enjoying watching MMA. Mostly because it is a time for barbeque and hanging out with friends. Plus, it is fun when you see the guys do positions like armbars and chokes that you train in class. My favorite fighter is GSP!
How do guys react when they get to know that you train this sport with so much success?
Hahaha There are definitely mixed reactions when it comes to guys knowing about my life in Jiu-Jitsu. A lot of them think its cool and want to try it out too! Others get a little intimidated. . especially when they find out how involved my dad is in the sport. 🙂
Have you changed because of jiu jitsu? Mentally or physically?
Jiu-Jitsu definitely changed me and the way I live. Physically, I eat healthier and it keeps me working out to stay in good physical condition. Mentally, Jiu-Jitsu has changed the way I think about my wins and losses. In the beginning, I used to feel so much pressure to win in tournaments. I was scared to lose and disappoint all the people who wanted me to win. But the more I won and the more I lost, I saw that my fans will always be my fans whether I win or lose. Everyone has their time to win and their time to lose, its just part of the game. Now, I focus on having a good fight. I love the feeling after a fight, whether I won or lost, that I gave a good fight.
Why do you think women’s fights look different than men’s?
Women, in my opinion, have a more forward game. Rarely do we see women fights where they are stalling. The majority of us are small, quick, flexible and I think all these things plus technique make the fights have a lot more movement. This is different compared to the Jiu-Jitsu of the 3x Absolute World Champion Roger Gracie, who shows the efficiency of the most basic Jiu-Jitsu. Both completely different styles, but both exciting to watch!
Thank you for your time. If you would like to thank anyone or greet, please don’t hesitate 🙂
I like to thank my family and friends who give me all the support in the world! I also would like to thank my sponsors ATAMA Kimonos, Versatile Fighter, and Fight Soap for all the help. I would like to thank IBJJF for putting on so many good tournaments around the world. And I would like to thank www.grapplerinfo.pl for the interview and I hope soon I can visit Poland and be able to train down there!