COSTA MESA, Calif. – Mackenzie Dern will be ready to fight if the UFC opts to implement an interim title in the strawweight division.
The future of the UFC at 115 pounds is currently a bit murky after reigning champion Carla Esparza told MMA Junkie this week that she’s injured and unable to accept a title defense with Zhang Weili at UFC 281 on Oct. 22nd Abu Dhabi.
Although Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC), who regained UFC gold with a highly-criticized split decision win over Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 in April, has said she expects to be healthy by November or December, the UFC has a history of showing an impatience in regards to making certain title fights, and it wouldn’t be unprecedented if an interim strap came into play.
If that’s the case, Dern (12-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) said she would be eager to pounce on the opportunity, be it against Weili (22-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) or anyone else.
“If they do have an interim title I would like to be in there,” Dern told MMA Junkie on Thursday. “Fight Zhang Weili or whoever it will be. I’m definitely interested in that. I’m ready. I’m talking with Mick (Maynard). I even sent a message to Dana (White). I’m like, ‘Hey Dana, I’m ready whoever it is, I’m ready.’ My manager Tim (Simpson) from Paradigm. A lot of names have been thrown out: Yan Xiaonan, Rose, Zhang Weili has been thrown out in the past, so I’m not sure how serious they are about that. But definitely I would be ready for any of those girls.”
Dern, 29, who has won five of her past six and is coming off a split decision win over Tecia Torres at UFC 273 in April, said she has been training consistently and would be ready to jump into a full-fledged training camp at any momentum. That includes being prepared for a five-round fight.
“For me, I’ve been training since my last fight so I’m ready,” Dern said. “It can be August, October – hopefully not too long. I want to fight pretty soon and keep the wins coming, keep my training on point. I think if I could get that interim title if that doesn’t fight happen would be pleasure. It would be awesome.”
If the UFC does decide to go the interim title round, Dern, No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie strawweight rankings, said she sees No. 3-ranked Weili as the obvious choice for an opponent.
Weili, who is a former UFC champion in her own right, retired divisional legend Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a spinning backfist knockout at UFC 275 this month in Singapore. It was an incredible finish that made her the clear top choice to challenge No. 1-ranked Esparza, but if the champ is unavailable, Dern embraces the challenge of facing the Chinese powerhouse.
“Zhang Weili continues to show she can throw crazy stuff at you and you need to be prepared. I hope to face her eventually. I think that would be a great fight. I don’t think she’s ever fought someone with my jiu-jitsu caliber, but definitely it would be a great. We’ll see what happens.”