One of the highlights of the 2016 edition of the world jiu jitsu championship was the epic battle between Mackenzie Dern and Michelle Nicolini. As she has been doing over the last couple years, Mackenzie added yet another crown to her collection with a submission win over the legendary Nicolini. While passing through Arizona I stopped in at Megaton’s and had the chance to see Mackenzie putting in the work that would lead to her 2nd black belt world title.
About Mackenzie Dern:
Mackenzie has Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in her blood. Her father is the legendary Megaton Diaz who received his black belt from Royler Gracie and was also his primary training partner for many years. As soon as she was old enough to crawl, she started accompanying her father to the gym and has progressed through the ranks of jiu jitsu snagging pretty much every medal and accomplishment possible along the way. She is currently the number one ranked Female Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, has won worlds at various belts and recently won an ADCC title and had an impressive win over the much larger Gabi Garcia. Most of all, she is passionate in all of her endeavors and puts her whole heart into everything she does.
I attended the competition training class. No technique was shown. People came in, warmed up, and got to rolling. Mackenzie came in a little late and didn’t have her usual female training partners in attendance. After a quick warm-up she rolled with a couple people close to her size and spent most of her time rolling with a brown belt who was slightly taller and heavier than her. She put in a solid 90 minutes of intense work, then stopped to get ready for a weight training session later that day. Most days she trains twice and sometimes more.
Top 5 Takeaways:
- Have a Routine– Mackanzie had her morning routine dialed in. She mapped out when she was going to train hard, when she would do technique, and when she would lift. Having a clear plan helps you track progress and minimizes distractions that take you away from your goals.
- Play to Your Strengths– Most female practitioners are smaller and not as strong as most of the male practitioners they have to train with. What they may not have in explosiveness and strength, they often make up in speed, technique, and flexibility. When faced with someone larger and stronger, never stop moving. Constant small movements avoid your getting pinned down and will also wear out your opponent over the course of a match.
- Take Risks in Training– Mackenzie took risks and went for the kill in training despite fighting a stronger male opponent. It cost her position and she was getting crushed in north/south. She was able to work her way out to a dominant position to win the roll. Training is the time to put yourself in impossible situations and fight your way out. If you escape you build confidence. If you don’t, you know what to avoid on the day of competition.
- Give 100%– Marcelo Garcia once said that he is often confused by people who get to 80% of their goal and give up. Why not just give that extra 20% and accomplish what you’re going for. Mackenzie knows her goals and gives her all on the mat and on fight day. Her results speak for themselves.
- Have an Outlet– We can all become obsessed with Jiu Jitsu but it’s important to allow our bodies and minds a break from the sport. Big competitions can be stressful so you need a way to blow off steam. Mackenzie does dance class once a week. She keeps the same intensity and passion she has with all her other endeavors but it gives her a break from jiu jitsu and makes her a more well rounded and interesting person. Whether it’s your family, music, or any other hobby, have something that allows you to stay energized.
I had a great time watching Mackenzie train and picking her brain about competition and how she gets ready. Outweighing her by over 100lbs made rolling with her too risky given her upcoming events, which is lucky for her because I was ready to come out strong with my berimbolo game! If you’re passing through Arizona, it’s worth the stop in at the gym to roll with her, especially for the female practitioners. If you don’t have the opportunity to stop by, make sure to catch her fights. They are always exciting and I guarantee you’ll pick up a couple details or transitions from watching.
PS… Don’t forget to have some fun!