Submission grappling is currently experiencing somewhat of a boost in mainstream martial arts, largely through its inclusion in prominent ONE Championship broadcasts. The Asian organization, which prides itself on offering various disciplines inside the Circle — including kickboxing and Muay Thai — is in the midst of building a formidable grappling roster.
This year alone has seen Danielle Kelly and the Ruotolo brothers, Kade and Tye, debut in submission grappling bouts, as well ONE double champion Reinier de Ridder tangling with André Galvão, one of the most decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes of all time.
The next step in ONE’s promotion of the sport will see a submission grappling title introduced. At ONE on Prime Video 2 later this month, American jiu-jitsu prodigy Mikey Musumeci will compete for a flyweight championship against Cleber Sousa.
In terms of talented and decorated grapplers competing inside the Octagon, where only MMA is seen, not many come better than Mackenzie Dern.
Dern, a black belt under four-time Pan American champion Wellington Dias, is a former world #1-ranked IBJJF competitor. While her achievements on the mats are too extensive to list, they include gold at the 2015 ADCC World Championship, gold at the 2015 and 2016 World Jiu-Jitsu Championships, consecutive golds at the World No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships, and three European Championship golds.
In case it needs saying, that’s a heavy trophy cabinet.
Having transitioned to mixed martial arts in 2016, the American-born Brazilian has largely left the mats in the rear-view mirror, instead submitting opponents inside the steel confines of the cage.
But having seen some of her former BJJ peers collide in submission grappling bouts across the world in ONE — which also provides them the chance to try their hand at MMA should they desire to do so — Dern wouldn’t mind the UFC following suit.
Dern: Submission Grappling Inclusion Could Help Casuals Value Jiu-Jitsu
During a recent exclusive interview with MMA News’ own James Lynch, Dern answered whether or not she’d like to see the promotion that she’s been a part of since 2018 follow in ONE’s footsteps by adding submission grappling to its cards.
The 29-year-old acknowledged that there would be no bigger platform for submission grappling to be brought to than the MMA leader. With that, Dern noted the benefits of its addition, suggesting that fans who don’t enjoy ground battles could learn to appreciate the jiu-jitsu art.
“I mean, I don’t know. That’s kind of crazy, I’ve never thought about it (being) in the UFC,” Dern said. ” But I think the UFC is the biggest platform (it could) have. So, I mean, if they could get all the casuals to start to value jiu-jitsu and submission grappling, and see it, I think they’d give more value to jiu-jitsu or the grappling part of a fight. Not like, it hits the ground and everyone starts booing.”
Although she questioned whether a sport that’s exclusively grappling would fit the UFC’s modus operandi, Dern did admit that, as a grappler, it would be awesome to have the opportunity to showcase submission grappling to such a large audience.
“As a grappler, I think that’d be awesome. Just to make people to fall more in love with that part of the game,” Dern added. “But in the UFC, you’re just so used to all the crazy knockouts and submissions you’re not expecting. But I think it’d be cool.”
For now, Dern’s focus will be on adding a new piece of gold to her collection — the UFC women’s strawweight championship. She’ll have the chance to move closer to that goal on October 1 when she meets Yan Xiaonan in the main event of UFC Vegas 61.
But should the promotion choose to expand its offering beyond MMA, it appears that Dern would be more than willing to get stuck in.
Catch our full interview with top five strawweight contender Mackenzie Dern below:
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