UFC fighter Mackenzie Dern is prepping for her matchup against Amanda Ribas on Saturday in Tampa, Florida.
But what makes this fight different from the other seven bouts of her professional career — all of which she has won — is the 26-year-old will be entering this fight just four months after becoming a new mom.
Dern, who is married to professional surfer Wesley Santos, gave birth to her daughter, Moa, in June. Having trained in MMA since she was a toddler, Dern didn’t want to prolong her return to the ring and agreed to her next fight without hesitation.
“Balancing being a new mom and being in fight camp for a fight is such a crazy experience,” Dern tells PEOPLE of training for the match against Ribas, whose professional record in 7-1. “The love that I have for my daughter is definitely helping me so much during my camp.”
The MMA fighter first announced her pregnancy with a post on Instagram in February.
“God makes everything so perfect! I am so happy to be able to share this news!” she wrote at the time. “I’m going to be a Mom! I love so much our family and now I have one more HUGE motivation for inside and outside the ring!”
“Thank you God for this blessing,” Dern added. “I can’t wait to be back in the ring.”
As she balances motherhood with her training, Dern says she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Everything else is easy after being a mom!” Dern says. “I finish training and then I run home to be able to spend time with my her, feed her and everything. It’s crazy to be breastfeeding, training and getting punched in the face, but everything is going great and I had such a great camp, so I’m excited for the fight.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Moa has been the perfect companion in the days leading up to the fight.
“My husband is in California until Friday, so I decided to bring my daughter with me instead of leaving her at home with dad,” Dern explains. “It’s fun to have her here with me the whole week and have her come to the interviews with me and do all the things during fight week.”
“She’s such a good girl! She sleeps and I have grandma and grandpa here to help me, so it’s really good,” Dern adds. “She keeps me grounded, instead of thinking about my opponent or getting nervous about the [dropping] weight.”
With her undefeated record on the line, Dern says she has been able to keep her cool thanks to her having Moa by her side.
“I just think about her,” she says, “and it helps me so much to not get too many butterflies before the fight.”