Whatever Happened To Female BJJ & Why It’s Not Ok To Pile On Mackenzie Dern

Whatever Happened To Female BJJ & Why It’s Not Ok To Pile On Mackenzie Dern



While the male grappling scene is constantly covered with every little tiff deemed significant it seems like female jiu-jitsu scene has been in a slump.

In many ways 2017 was a transitional year- 3 of the biggest superstars from the competition scene have all refocused on mma in their respective organizations. Mackenzie Dern is steadily working on her striking earning the MMA record 3-0 in less than a year, Gabi Garcia keeps on training with Cris Cyborg waiting for a legitimate opponent at Rizin and Michelle Nicolini is steadily making a name for herself at ONE.

Dern managed to top off the season as number 1 ranked female athlete but this came after some mixed performances. Unlike Garcia and Nicolini, Dern seems to have a harder time breaking up with the bjj community.

Still it can be argued that the female scene would be nonexistent if there weren’t for these 3. Who were all providing spectacular performances in years past – due to a rivalry they each had with Dern. A rivalry that has given us all time favorite moments such as these:

Unlike Buchecha who has been quietly distancing himself from MMA, Dern dove straight in and brought some good attention through her chokoplata moment in one of the fights.

Sure, she’s had some issues making weight but isn’t this to be expected of a 24 year old athlete who is undergoing huge changes in training routines and trying to figure out what division she’d fit in best in mma? 

Perhaps the burden of competitive jiu-jitsu should fall on someone else – the only issue being lack of charisma and investment in the current scene – after all we’ve been watching Garcia, Dern and Nicolini for years.

What happens when we look at the IBJJF World championship through the eyes of the stats? Well as bjjheroes number crunch would tell you things appear to be up and up with the number of competitors rising. But sadly this doesn’t apply to the female division- there are 6 matches less than in 2016 for female black belts.

While the male black belts squared off in more than 200 matches – the female ones had just 50 matches.

A whole new generation of black belts has risen up through ranks – 5 of those new prominent female competitors are newly promoted black belts. Among them the new double division queen Tayane Porfirio. But Porfirio has her own issues, she’s not quite as grand as Gabi and certainly not as dynamic to watch as Dern as evidenced by the lack of hype surrounding her.

While the IBJJF scene might not be the place to watch right now an interesting new event lurks on the horizon – the ALL female edition of Eddie Bravo Invitational including the mini Combat Jiu-Jitsu tournament. Here things get very interesting with a number of affiliations coming in to represent – the ones that are largely absent from the All Male Danaher Death Squad/10th Planet dominated event.

Representing Alliance there will be Erin Herle and Talita Alencar – current lightweight IBJJF light featherweight champion.

Representing Checkmat will be Pati Fontes – Lucas Leite black belt who has had some success in nogi circles.

Representing Caio Terra Association will be Kristina Barlaan (who has a competitive breakdance background) as well as current champion of the world Tammi Musameci!

They will be joined by 10th planet representatives Lila Smadja and Katherine Shen. With Gracie Humaita, Gracie Barra and Renzo Gracie’s all having their own representatives in the competition vying for that coveted 20.000 dollar prize!

And while many of these new generation names have yet to be made in the public eye there’s hope just yet – hope both for bjj champions of generations past transitioning into mma as well as the new additions.

All these women deserve to be appreciated and respected as athletes because through their legacy and current work they will inspire a whole new generation of practitioners regardless of their focus and momentary lapses. 




EBI 12 The Female Flyweights will be live from The Orpheum Theatre in Downtown LA, CA this July 30th!

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