It can catch up to you. It can drag, or even stand still. It can move too fast. And it can be a fighter’s worst enemy.

Ask Juliana Carneiro Lima about time. The longtime Muay Thai practitioner and five-fight mixed martial arts veteran can tell you a thing or two about it.

“The only obstacle in MMA is there are not enough hours in the day,” Lima said in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “You have to learn a lot of different disciplines [for MMA], so I spend a tremendous amount of time in the gym. I did what I’ve been doing for five fights already, training all fighting styles and try different, to build a different strategy for each opponent.”

Despite taking part in only five MMA fights, Lima is no stranger to the world of combat sports. She started training in Muay Thai approximately 10 years ago and fighting professionally in Muay Thai five years ago. She holds nine wins in 10 total fights.

That experience makes Lima a dangerous rival on the feet. Her striking is her best weapon, but it is no longer her only one. Time might work against her when it comes to training, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t rounded out her game. She trains at the renowned Gracie Barra camp under the tutelage of Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhaes. She continues to refine her striking with Thai master and world champion Olimpio Cunha. And she works on her wrestling skills with the Brazilian national team’s coach. Her goal is to become a well-rounded fighter who doesn’t rely on just one aspect of MMA to win her fights. And her opponents better take heed.

“I can change my strategy to focus in on my opponent’s weakness because I can wrestle, strike and grapple. I feel comfortable everywhere,” Lima explained. “Every fight I learn something different and try to improve on my mistakes.”

Lima (Sherdog)

The 31-year-old fighter who is sometimes known by her nickname, “Ju Thai,” has the chance to make her name known to fans around the world when she steps into the Invicta cage on April 5 to make her promotional debut.

“It’s very important for my career,” Lima admitted. “This is the next step in my progression. It is a big step up, but I’m ready and excited. I love Invicta. This is my dream to fight for them. It is [an] all-women show, and I couldn’t be happier. I really think Invicta is going to be here for a long time.”

When she walks into the arena in Kansas City, Mo., for her Invicta FC 5 fight, Lima will be entering into the toughest battle of her young career. The Brazilian fighter will be venturing out of her homeland for the first time as a mixed martial artist. She’ll be under the bright lights of the prominent Invicta Fighting Championships promotion. And, she’ll be competing against the No. 6-ranked strawweight in the world, Katja Kankaanpaa, who is undefeated through eight fights.

“She is a good fighter and I respect her. I will do my best to come out with a positive result,” Lima said. “We have studied her game and the strategy has been drawn up already!”

Indeed, Lima will need a smart game plan to overcome Kankaanpaa. The Finnish fighter, known as the “Killer Bunny,” may only have three more fights under her belt in comparison to Lima, but she has fought and defeated the likes of Karla Benitez, Mei Yamaguchi and Aisling Daly.

“I have fought some tough women too,” Lima countered. “I beat girls that were in weight divisions higher than me. My mind is focused and I will be very hard to beat.”

Time has played a factor in Lima’s MMA career in more ways than one. She is no stranger to going the distance in her fights. Four of her five outings have ended in the hands of the judges. Her pro debut in November 2010 found Lima on the winning end of a split decision. On three other occasions, she battled her way to unanimous verdicts. Only once, against Patricia de Farias on Sept. 1, 2012, did Lima score the finish—via a first-round TKO.

The same characteristic holds true for her opponent as well. Kankaanpaa has notched two submission victories and a lone TKO finish, but she has gone the distance on five occasions. In fact, the Team Botnia Punishment fighter has fought to a decision in her last four bouts, with three wins and a draw.

So, is this fight between Lima and Kankaanpaa destined to see the judges’ scorecards?

“A fight is a fight, and anything can happen,” Lima admitted. “I assure you that I will be looking to finish if I can. It will be [an] interesting fight, and I think you will be surprised.”

There’s no denying that a win for the undefeated Lima against a ranked opponent would be a significant addition to her resume. The win could propel her towards the division’s elite.

“My goal is the title, and I will fight with anybody that is in my way,” declared Lima. “I never choose opponents and will not now!”

Time is rarely a friendly adversary. More time would allow Lima to further improve her skill set, to gain more experience and to develop into an even better fighter. But, right now, time is playing a different role in Lima’s career. It has aligned to give her the perfect opportunity to vault herself to stardom and title contention.

All Lima has to do is seize the moment.

Top Photo: Juliana Carneiro Lima (R) (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)