UFC Vegas 73, held this Saturday in Las Vegas was marked by the American-Brazilian Mackenzie Dern who had a dominant performance from start to finish, overcoming Angela Hill by unanimous decision after five rounds.
In a new interview, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Mackenzie Dern describes the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, Wesley Santos, a Pro surfer who doesn’t train Jiu-Jitsu, and why she felt unable to physically defend herself using her martial arts skills.
In a new interview, she spoke to Ariel Helwani of The MMA Hour about what she felt during that time and why she felt as if she needed to leave.
Dern describes the tumultuous relationship she was in for several years, during which her husband would become physically and verbally abusive:
“We get put into situations where people want to try and get a reaction out of you and have you do something just to be able to, like, sue you, or try and take it to the police or try and do something like that, and especially someone that you live with,” she said. “That’s not healthy, you know. And it’s crazy for me because I always want to represent someone who can stand up for themselves and can defend themselves for all the women out there, you know, so for me to see myself in that situation was really hard.”
Despite her mastery of Jiu-Jitsu, Dern says she felt unable to fight back against her husband:
“I wasn’t even able to defend myself,” she said. “I couldn’t defend myself, like, police were getting called to the house. It was just getting out of control, and going through that in front of your daughter, you don’t want your daughter to witness that. So the moment that I felt like I couldn’t even, I wasn’t safe, and that’s why I left, because I wasn’t safe. And it’s crazy, because, like, I feel like if I could defend myself, I would. Sure I would be able to you know, but it’s more than just me hitting someone because they’re trying to hit me or they’re trying to hold me down or they’re trying to do things you know, the fact that I couldn’t do it because they would take me to the police.”
Dern credits Jiu-Jitsu with helping her find the strength and confidence to eventually leave the abusive relationship.
Dern hopes sharing her story will help others suffering abuse.
Mackenzie Dern’s journey from victim to champion—both in MMA and in life—serves as an inspiration for anyone overcoming hardship and abuse. Her resilience in the face of fear and violence is a testament to the human spirit.