Mackenzie Dern delivered a career-best performance this past weekend, rebounding from a defeat to Yan Xiaonan last October by dominating Angela Hill across five rounds in the UFC Vegas 73 main event.
With the result, the Arizona-born Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist entered the club of UFC headline winners at the third time of trying, with losses against Xiaonan and Marina Rodriguez previously leaving her 0-2 in Apex main events.
But in addition to resuming her charge towards the strawweight gold, Dern’s victory came as some relief from the personal troubles she’s experienced beyond the realms of the steel cage.
Prior to her performance in Las Vegas on May 20, Dern was vocal about the struggles in her life beyond the Octagon, with the ongoing fallout from her divorce with estranged husband Wesley Santos affecting her training camp.
Now, speaking with Ariel Helwani during an appearance on The MMA Hour, Dern has gone into further detail about her life outside of fighting and revealed troubling accusations of physical abuse during the relationship.
“So I feel like I’ve been having to defend myself this whole time for things that I never thought I’d have to defend myself for,” Dern said, “I was in a situation in my relationship where I couldn’t even defend myself, because I was getting, like, threatened that if I did anything, I’d be talking to the police and I could lose my daughter.
“So, I stayed in my relationship because I believed in the family, and I believe that that’s what God wanted and stuff. But there’s a certain point where you try, try and try, and things don’t change, and it just keeps getting worse and worse. And then, like I was saying, I wasn’t even able to defend myself,” Dern continued. “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.”
In court documents obtained by MMA Fighting, some of Dern’s claims were brought to light. She accused Santos of physical and emotional abuse, naming one particular incident where he allegedly slammed her leg in a door while dragging her into their house.
Dern is also said to have attached a video of one incident while filing for a restraining order, claiming that Santos “threw my phone, water bottles, pillows and bedding while harassing/intimidating me verbally.”
Additionally, the strawweight fighter accused Santos of repeatedly striking her two dogs, as well as financial abuse by preventing her from accessing sponsor money, making unauthorized payments on her credit card, and forging a lease renewal on the residence they formerly occupied together.
Dern’s Estranged Partner Used Her Profession As A Defense: ‘I Would Have No Chance’
In a statement, Santos responded to Dern’s remarks, which marked her first time publicly alleging abuse in their marriage.
“I am disappointed that Mackenzie chose to make public statements about our divorce, especially since it involves the custody of our beautiful daughter, Moa,” he wrote. “Because we are in the middle of legal proceedings, I cannot comment on anything at this time, except to say that Mackenzie’s statements are false and defamatory.”
In their report, MMA Fighting also revealed Santos’ own accusations of abuse in the court documents.
Responding to the UFC fighter filing for a restraining order, the Brazilian surfer denied his former partner’s claims. Santos suggested it’s unfeasible that he would have attacked Dern based on her profession.
“I never physically attacked Mackenzie, she is an MMA fighter,” Santos wrote in a court filing. “I would never even try to get physical with her. I would have no chance.”
Santos also made a number of serious claims himself during the ongoing custody battle. He accused Dern of punching him in the parking lot of a sushi restaurant, reportedly attaching images and a video of a bloody nose. Santos also alleged that Dern beat their daughter Moa in a video sent to him.
It’s noted that the court didn’t side with either party regarding the domestic abuse claims and has ordered joint custody of their child. With Dern ruled as the primary earned, she was forced to pay $10,000 of Santos’ court fees and $4,006 a month in child support.
The pair are scheduled to return to court next month for a ruling on the UFC fighter’s restraining order.
Despite the ongoing troubles in her personal life, Dern is hoping to keep the ball rolling in her career on MMA’s biggest stage. Following a bonus-worthy display at UFC Vegas 73, the BJJ ace has expressed her desire to be back in action this fall.
No doubt about it 🔥@MackenzieDern and @AngieOverkill earn your #UFCVegas73 Fight of the Night!
[ B2YB @ToyoTires ] pic.twitter.com/EbHFG8ErK1
— UFC (@ufc) May 21, 2023
Quotes h/t MMA Fighting.