It goes without saying that in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you leave it all on the mat , you bring nothing back with you when you step off the soft cushion of the Zebra foam , the same holds true with the warrior spirit. It takes a great deal of patience, perseverance determination and most of all hard work to gain fame and success in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and hard work never goes unnoticed.
With the recent popularity of grappling and it’s tournaments , so too do we see an explosion in the amount of females grappling and having as much success as the men. We caught up with none other than rising BJJ star and 5x world champ, Mackenzie Dern , daughter of the world famous Wellington “Megaton” Dias, who also having her fair share of success on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu circuit. We first started following her at the purple belt level , and noticed her great success in competition and wanted to know more about her .
She was kind enough to grant us an interview in regards to her travels, her home life and thoughts on the current state of BJJ.
We hope you enjoy !
Hi Mackenzie , first of all thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions , we understand you are very busy with training and and travelling, so i will try to keep it short . You grew up as the daughter of the world famous Wellington ” Megaton ” Dias, what is it like growing up as Megatons daughter , him being such a high profile Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter , do you feel any pressure to perform and do well in competitions?
Growing up as Megaton’s daughter was the best! I grew up in the jiu-jitsu world and even when I was little I went to all the adult tournaments with him to watch him fight. I never really felt any pressure to win because I am his daughter, but I always feel the responsibility to represent him the best I could winning or losing. In fact, now as a brown belt, I feel more pressure to do good and win in the tournaments, to not let my fans down than I having to win because I am Megaton’s daughter.
But like my fans, I know that my dad is happy with me independent of my tournament results.
You have been doing very well in tournaments, since we started following you at the purple belt level
do you feel that as you go up in rank, the competition is getting more difficult ?
Going up in rank is definitely more difficult! Each belt I have to make less and less mistakes. Going up in rank is not difficult because there are new girls or new positions, because I mostly compete against the same girls that I have been competing since blue and purple belt. But the girls are making less mistakes and I have to be careful and always try to be one step ahead. The hardest part is having to think ahead all the time, but by competing as much as I can and training, I am definitely getting the experience I need!
Amen to that ! You make it look so easy though, but i know that there is more to your training than meets the eye. Being a part of Team Megaton, does your father implement a strength and conditioning program into your training , or is it solely technique ?
My dad always taught me that it is important to take care of my body and if I want to be an athlete I need to not just train jiu-jitsu but make sure I wont get tired during my fights or feel weak. Now that my boyfriend is here in AZ with me we have been going to the gym a lot and he has been passing a lot of circuit training for me to prepare for the worlds. He takes care of the supplements I take and keeping me concentrated. I am so happy that my dad taught me this healthy lifestyle and that my boyfriend is here to help me!
Yes, having a healthy mind and body is crucial to success, as we have seen the results of your training when you stand on the podium , arms raised . You do a lot of travelling inside and outside the United States how does that affect your family life? I know you get to do seminars all over the world and you get to bring your boyfriend ( Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes ) , does that help you focus on your goals or is it still difficult to be away from friends and family back home in Arizona?
Ever since I was little my dad traveled a lot! It was very common for him to be traveling for a weekend or even a couple of months, and as I started competing a lot I started to travel all the time. Now, it is totally normal for me. Thankfully, I have been able to do seminars with my dad and seminars together with my boyfriend, Augusto “Tanquinho”.
It is always great doing seminars! I get to meet so many new people and see how jiu-jitsu is growing all over the world, but it is hard to concentrate for a tournament when traveling so much. After traveling for a while, I start missing my home, my training routine, my family and of course my dogs!!
But I love what I do and I would not change it for anything! Because of Jiu-Jitsu, I was able to visit many places that I never thought I would go!
We can see how traveling , doing seminars, competing and juggling a private life can be difficult at times and if you can have as much support as possible can certainly help you mentally and physically. And speaking of which Mackenzie , how do you feel about open weight classes and can you give us thoughts on competing against larger females like Gabi Garcia , do you feel they have an unfair advantage or is it possible to overcome size with technique?
Mackenzie Dern :
The open weight for me is a lot of fun! Since I am small, I know it is harder to win the absolute but I feel good fighting with no responsibility and I like to test my jiu-jitsu on the bigger girls. Gabi Garcia is a big challenge for any black belt. In my opinion, I don’t think it is an unfair advantage. Gabi is big and she is not going to get any smaller. She is a competitor like anyone else and wants to win too. Absolute is voluntary and anyone who enters knows that they could fight someone a lot bigger and needs to be prepared to fight against someone like Gabi. I always believe that technique can overcome anything, and even though it may be very hard no one is unbeatable.
Spoken like a true warrior!
You are an exciting fighter and a very humble person, you have been referred to as a perfect role model for girls all over the world wanting to get into Jiu Jitsu, which we agree , but one of the recent trends we have noticed is people being awarded higher rank quickly , how do you feel about some people being awarded black belts quickly, do you think that it’s good or bad for our sport in general to have professors award black belts too soon?
Mackenzie Dern :
I think each professor knows their own students, and in my opinion, to be a black belt, the person should have a group of qualities, not just good results in the competitions. Especially, since a lot of people don’t like to compete. Sometimes it takes a while to be prepared for the black belt and sometimes it is faster, but I think to be ready for the black belt a person should be responsible, humble, disciplined. They should understand the meaning of jiu-jitsu since they will be representing our sport. They should be mature and conscious of what a black belt represents. For me, that is the type of black belt that we have and need to represent our sport.
We couldn’t agree with you more! You are an amazing fighter, role model, and one of the fastest rising stars in our sport and we wish you continued success and we hope to see you compete again real soon.
Mackenzie Dern represents Team Megaton and Gracie Humaita , and is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu , and at only 19 years old she continues to compete and succeed , and is teaching seminars for academies all over the world.
We would like to thank Mackenzie Dern for taking the time to answer a few questions and we wish her and her team great success!