One of very few women in extreme fighting, Shana Power’s first battle was with disease, which made her train harder in the cage. The article below is her story; it first appeared in FORBES WOMAN AFRICA and is republished with its permission. Subscribe today by contacting Shanna Jacobsen: [email protected]
They call her Titanium because she is tough. Three years ago, doctors diagnosed South African extreme fighter Shana Power with a pulmonary embolism; she had 28 clots in her lungs and was lucky to be alive. Never do any form of training, you are on a drug for life, they said. Warfarin was the drug prescribed for her.
“It’s a very serious drug and you have to be very careful when you are on it,” says the 23-year-old Power.
Three years after that disturbing diagnosis, in late 2015, the crowds cheered under the bright lights of the cage at the GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World in Cape Town as she landed a spinning back fist to knock her opponent to the ground.
It had been a long fight for Power, her first win was against the odd disease. She thankfully opted for a second opinion that changed her life forever. She was told the infection was not genetic and that she was going to be able to overcome it afterall.
Thereafter, Power, born and raised in Johannesburg, trained hard for a year, and made her boxing debut as an amateur in 2013.
“That boxing fight wasn’t just a boxing fight, it was a fight that I had fought for my life, I had overcome adversity and I still was able to do something that people told me I could never do,” says Power.
In 2014, in Cape Town, Power made her amateur debut in extreme fighting, a platform for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), turning professional as one of very few women.
She had always enjoyed sport like hockey and soccer, and being the only female, finished high school playing in the boys’ team.
“It is nothing new to me, being the only female at Fight Fit Militia gym.” The gym in Sunninghill is an extreme fighting and training facility.
“I started learning about the sport, the culture, the community and what mixed martial arts was, once I started getting involved, I wanted to challenge myself and see where I’m at because I’m constantly competing against males, I wanted to see where I ranked against females and that’s when I asked if it would be a possibility if they would let me fight; from there, it just progressed from amateur to professional.”
At the GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World, Cape Town, where Power made her professional debut, she was also ranked number one in South Africa after she won against England’s extreme fighter Kirsty Davis. It was a highly-anticipated fight.
“It was the way I won my fight that created hype about it, I couldn’t have been happier with that performance. It was a spinning back fist that started off the finish, it was a TKO [Technical Knockout].”
Power says it was her best fight ever because of the experience and the performance.
Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC), the organisation that allows professional athletes to compete in MMA in South Africa, is yet to release the titles for the female divisions. There are a few women who have made their debut and are waiting to be considered for the titles. Power is a flyweight (57 kilograms) contender. If she wins the next big fight, she will be top of the list because there are few women in the sport with her willpower and winning streak.
Power’s favourite technique is Muay Thai, a combat sport that uses elbows, knees, kicks and boxing as well.
“I enjoy and adapted to that discipline better because mixed martial arts used about three or four techniques. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was a very challenging discipline for me, but as time progressed I felt I was starting to understand it more so therefore I’m starting to enjoy it,” she says. Power emphasizes that it takes a lot of hard work to get what you want, and whenever you are stuck or are not progressing, she advises aspiring extreme fighters to just look back and see how far they have come.
“The will and the strength to keep pushing [is important], so just don’t give up, and keep going after your dreams,” she says. It took courage for Power to overcome her illness to become a knockout in her chosen sport. It would take even more courage to step in the cage with her.