Dern showed up fight week at 139.5
Mackenzie Dern has had seven fights and missed weight for three of them. The first two scale fails were warm-ups for UFC 224 on Saturday, when she missed the strawweight limit by seven pounds. There are just 10 pounds between women’s divisions.
The grossly irresponsible Dern and her grossly irresponsible team showed up in Brazil at 139.5. That’s 23.5 pounds over the limit. That means she had to cut 16.8 percent of her body weight.
Dehydration is classified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the percentage of body weight lost. Mild dehydration is 5-6%, while moderate is 7-10%. Severe dehydration is over 10% and is a life-threatening condition, requiring immediate medical care. Late last year Clovis ‘C.J.’ Hancock cut 17.2% and died in the cage, only to be revived by Texas commission doctors.
Dern appeared recently on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour and explained what happened.
“[The commission] wanted to pull me on Tuesday when I arrived,” said Dern, as transcribed by Peter Carroll for MMA Fighting. “I said, ‘No, it’s okay, I just flew 14 hours and I drank a lot of water and I didn’t do any exercise, of course I’m going to be heavy’, but they made me make a weight the next day.
“I dehydrated two days early to show I could make a weight. When I made that weight on Wednesday, they allowed me to keep on cutting. It was a little bit crazy the weight cut because I had to do a pre-dehydration to show I could make the weight on Wednesday.”
“When I arrived I weight 139 pounds and a half. And then, on Wednesday, I was 131.”
“It’s not typical, I like to arrive at the fight week at 120, but honestly when I got there on Tuesday I wasn’t scared yet because I was on the plane and everything and I was drinking. For me, it was still possible.”
“I started to get nervous on Thursday night. I spoke to my manager. In Vegas, I had a close weight cut, but in Vegas I was 100 percent positive I was going to make the weight even though I was the last one to weigh in. In Brazil, I told my manager on Thursday, ‘This isn’t like Vegas where the whole time I’m positive.’
“On Thursday night, I was doing a lot of hours in the sauna and the weight wasn’t coming off; I was just losing 500 grams or 600 grams for every two hours. I told [my manager], ‘I don’t think I’m going to lose this many kilos in 24 hours.”
“We woke up 5:30 [on Friday] and went to the sauna, did everything again for two hours and the weight wasn’t coming off. I was sweating, and then I’d go to the scale, but nothing had come off.”
“[The commission] said, ‘If you keep going then we won’t have a chance to do that fight because you won’t be able to move, if we have to do a catchweight or something you have to stop now’. It was 9 o’clock already when they made the decision.”
“The UFC doctors were there, they went to sauna, they met me there. They were the ones who made the decision; it wasn’t me who wanted to stop. I went to the bathroom to check my weight and when I came back they put me on the chair and they started to give me some ice and I said, ‘No, I need to cut weight!’ They told me to drink and I didn’t understand why.”
“I felt my body not reacting well. The other times I didn’t make weight it was in my head. I started to trip out a little — well, not a little, a lot — that my body was shutting down.”
“For this one, I felt like my mind was right, but I remember telling my coaches, ‘It’s hard for me to stand up’, I started to feel it in my legs. Then I went to the sauna two more times and then I wasn’t able to stand up anymore. The water came out of my legs and the muscles in my legs were starting to not respond. They thought I wouldn’t be able to fight.”
Mackenzie Dern is in the wrong division. Hopefully, she doesn’t have to die for her, her team, the UFC, and the commissions to realize that.
But blaming Dern for this debacle misses the point. She is playing the game as it is played, albeit in a more extreme and less responsible version than usual. The real problem is the culture of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts.