UFC Vegas 73, which took place in Las Vegas this past Saturday, witnessed an unforgettable performance by Mackenzie Dern, the American-Brazilian fighter. Displaying her dominance from start to finish, Dern emerged victorious against Angela Hill with a unanimous decision after an intense five-round battle. However, behind her success lies a story of immense courage and resilience.
In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Mackenzie Dern opened up about the abuse she endured at the hands of her ex-husband, Wesley Santos, a professional surfer who lacked Jiu-Jitsu training. She shared her struggles and shed light on why she felt incapable of physically defending herself using her martial arts skills.
Recalling the tumultuous relationship that lasted for several years, Dern revealed the physical and verbal abuse she endured. She spoke about the challenging situations where people would purposely provoke her, hoping to manipulate her reaction to press charges or involve the authorities. Living with such toxicity took a toll on her mental and emotional well-being, as she aspired to be an advocate for self-defense and empowerment.
Dern admitted that despite her expertise in Jiu-Jitsu, she felt helpless in fighting back against her husband’s aggression. She expressed her frustration, stating, “I couldn’t defend myself. The police were frequently called to our house. The situation was spiraling out of control. Experiencing this in front of my daughter was something I couldn’t bear. I realized I needed to leave because I didn’t feel safe anymore. It’s ironic because I’ve always believed I could defend myself, but it goes beyond physical confrontations. I was afraid that they would use my actions against me and involve the authorities.”
Nevertheless, Mackenzie Dern credited Jiu-Jitsu for instilling in her the strength and confidence needed to eventually break free from the abusive relationship. The discipline not only shaped her as a fighter but also as an individual who refused to let fear and violence define her.
By sharing her personal story, Dern hopes to inspire and empower others who may be suffering from abuse. Her journey from being a victim to becoming a champion, both inside and outside the octagon, serves as a beacon of hope for those battling hardship and abuse. Her unwavering resilience and determination in the face of adversity stand as a testament to the indomitable human spirit.
Mackenzie Dern’s triumph over her past experiences paints a powerful picture of transformation and courage. Through her actions and words, she reminds us all of the importance of standing up against abuse, raising awareness, and supporting those who may be trapped in similar situations. The impact of her story extends far beyond the world of mixed martial arts, making her an inspiration for anyone seeking strength and striving for a better tomorrow.