It’s an overcast start to what is expected to be another sunny Christmas day in Brisbane, Australia. It’s early. Probably a bit too early for someone who isn’t looking to see if Santa left anything under the tree. Yet, with a bag over her shoulder, she walks out the front door. It’s funny how a fighter’s entire life can be made up of just one bag.

There’s no flight to catch on this early morning. There’s no ride to what some families will enjoy in a traditional Aussie breakfast. There’s just one thing on her mind. After some travel, the door at her final destination swings open. There are mats on the floor and a sign on the wall that reads “Impact Mixed Martial Arts.”

For Shauna “Little Thunder” Carew, Christmas morning was much the same as any other morning, especially when in her near future there lies the potential for her to hold the first pinweight (100-pound) championship in Australian mixed martial arts history.

Carew (R) (Huynh Nguyen/PengHuynh Photography)

Carew (R) (Huynh Nguyen/PengHuynh Photography)

“Impact MMA has been my home since I started training,” Carew told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “Since most of my family is in Melbourne, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Christmas morning than to be at my home. I put some time in at Impact, and it really was just my time to myself. Because of the title fight, there has been no break for me.”

With no real combat-sport background to speak of, her foray into the sport of mixed martial arts isn’t quite as traditional as that of other fighters. Carew didn’t exactly dream about fighting as she was growing up. Her passion for the sport, though, is like no other. Whilst some people will sit around and continue to stare at the television screen while wondering, “What if?,” Carew found that hands-on experience was the key to her falling in love with the sport.

“I just started watching it on TV,” Carew explained. “I had a mate who was really into Muay Thai, and [I] started doing a bit with him. After that, I started going to a lot of MMA events, and after the first couple, I just thought, ‘I don’t wanna just sit around and watch; I wanna be in there.’ Mixed martial arts is now my life. Everything I do revolves around it. MMA has really changed my life for the better.”

Entering the cage for the first time in a nine-month period, Carew faces off with American Sarah Lagerstorm on Feb.1 at Roshambo 2 at the Chandler Theatre in Brisbane to crown the promotion’s inaugural pinweight champion. It’s just the second time that Carew has been able to compete at her natural weight of 45.3 kilograms.

“It’s awesome that the fight is for a title,” Carew exclaimed. “For me, though, it’s more about actually getting an opportunity to fight. Since the opportunities to compete are so limited for me, I am just as happy to get in there. It’s a little frustrating, not only for me but for the whole women’s mma scene here in Australia. It’s limiting for us. The guys can almost fight as often as they like. By the time I fight [at Roshambo], I won’t have fought for nine months. And that’s not by my choice. It’s simply because of the lack of opportunity.”

Not deterred by her frustrations at the lack of in-cage experience that was available to her, Carew explored the options that existed for her in other combat sports. It was one thing to have a lull in the amount of potential fights offered to her because of the lack of depth in her natural weight division, but to be denied an opportunity to compete because of a perceived experience advantage was something foreign to her given that she had only had three professional mixed martial arts bouts to her name.

“There were a couple of [Muay] Thai fights that fell through,” she said. “I was offered to two separate girls and neither would take it because of my MMA experience. It was frustrating because I haven’t had a Thai fight before and thought it would be a great way to just get back in there and do something.”

With the lack of professional bouts available to her across the realm of combat sports, Carew also explored other avenues to keep up to speed with the sport with which she had fallen in love. Whilst her career may be in its infancy, Carew is honest with herself and knows that at the age of 33 her window of opportunity isn’t going to be open forever.

Carew (L) (Huynh Nguyen/PengHuynh Photography)

Carew (L) (Huynh Nguyen/PengHuynh Photography)

“Yeah, I’m getting older and I wish I had of got involved in the sport 10 years ago, but [officiating] is the best way for me to help the sport and keep involved,” Carew admitted. “It’s great to be able to help grow the sport and be a part of a body that is trying to do the best for the sport, especially in Queensland. The people that I’ve met through this sport are just amazing, and I have made so many lifelong friends. And the sport has taken me to places in Australia that I never thought I would have been able to go to, and for that I am grateful.”

In the long term, much like so many other aspiring mixed martial arts fighters around the world, Carew wants to be able to test herself on the world stage against the very best fighters in her weight division. A title win on Feb. 1 could see her get one step closer to that dream, even if it is a little earlier than expected.

“[Getting to Invicta] is my goal. That’s what I want to achieve in the sport,” Carew revealed. “If I can get a fight there, that would mean everything to me. And anything that eventuates from that will be great.

“I think there is a lot of opportunity for them with the 105-pound division. And who knows, maybe they will bring in a pinweight division one day, which would be even better for me. We are currently looking at potential opportunities in Brazil, Singapore and Poland—any international fight would be a dream come true for me. And winning the belt at Roshambo will put me in a good place for something like that to happen.”

No matter what day of the year it is, Carew knows that her focus much switch 100 percent when a fight is on the cards. It’s not often that she can find herself in a fight camp, so she embraces the opportunity when it does present itself. Should she get another victory to her name after her title fight on Feb. 1, there’s a good chance that her home away from home at Impact MMA will see many more holiday-season training sessions in the years to come.

Shauna would like to thank her sponsors: Fitness Innovations, Artists Outlook AO Australia, RANKD, SFSports, Kellie Rose Designs and Fighters Against Child Abuse Australia (FACAA). She would also like to thank Impact MMA—Brett Irvine, Ethan Law, Nathan Starh, Antonio Mota of Mota-vation BJJ and Gamebred Combat Club—Brendan O’Reilly, Nathan Ross and Eilleen Forrest. She would also like to make a special mention to her training partners: Matt Chalmers, Alex Muir, Bec Rawlings (formerly Hyatt), Claire Fryer, Chernika Johnson, and Nik Kren. Shauna would also like to extend a big thanks to Roshambo MMA for putting her on its card and flying her in an international opponent. Follow Carew on Twitter: @aussiefightgirl