With less than a week left until his 24th birthday, UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve has seen more and accomplished more than most fighters do by the time they retire. Struve began his career at the age of 17 in Holland and since then has fought a total of 27 times with the last nine of those bouts occurring inside the Octagon.
To think that he hasn’t even approached his physical peak should strike fear in the hearts of heavyweights everywhere. Standing 6’11” tall with extremely long limbs has allowed the "Skyscraper" to acquire a very good submission background and gives him a huge advantage when the fight stays on the feet because he more often than not has a longer reach than his opponents.
At 22-5 overall, Struve has had his share of growing pains since signing with the UFC. He was rudely introduced to the organization by future heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 95 losing via TKO in just 54 seconds. He would rebound nicely at UFC 99 against Denis Stojnic, winning by submission mid-way through the second round. All told he is 6-3 in the UFC and has taken home three bonus checks in his nine Octagon appearances.
This Wednesday in Nebraska he will square off against Dave Herman in the co-main event slot on UFC on Fuel 1. Herman is a tough opponent for anyone, but Struve is ready to celebrate his birthday early with a win. He is also hoping to enhance that victory with another bonus check. He has been putting long hours at the gym in preparation for this bout. He expects all of the hard work to shine through come fight time.
“I am preparing for my last training session here in Holland and then I’ll fly to Nebraska,” Struve said in an exclusive conversation with Fighters.com. “All I need is one or two days to get used to the time difference and after that I’ll feel fine. My trainer Bob Schreiber and I have been together since I am 14 so the comfort level is there. We have really pushed the pace of this camp and I am surrounded by great coaches and sparring partners. I am ready for this fight.”
Struve has been in his share of big fights thus far in the UFC. He is no stranger to fighting at or near the top of the main card. This time his bout will on the first official card of the UFC on Fuel, but to Struve it’s not where or when he fights, but who is across the cage from him and what they bring to the table.
“This fight is no different for me than my other fights on the main card,” offered Struve. “This is my fourthco-main event slot and it’s become normal for me to fight on these cards. I’m only 23 and this will be my 32nd professional fight and I take each one as a learning experience. Herman is talented and I know I need to keep him away and stay out of the clinch although I am not frightened because of my length. He has solid power, but if I keep out of his range the fight will go my way.”
With a few more quality wins Struve could find himself getting close to a title shot. With the influx of heavyweights from Strikeforce and the quality fighters who have been with the organization for some time there is ample opportunity for Struve to prove his worthiness as a true title contender. He realizes who are the top dogs and has no qualms about where he stands in the division as of now.
“I see myself in the Top 10 or just outside of it,” explained a confident Struve. “I also see myself as one of the more promising fighters in the division and I plan on showing that against Herman and in the years to come. Right now Junior dos Santos is the top heavyweight followed by Alistair Overeem, Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, and Frank Mir. Even a guy like Roy Nelson who may not look like it, but he’s made out of steel. There are so many good fights out there for me and I look forward to what the future brings.”
With a career filled with so many bright spots and a future that has endless limitations Struve can enjoy looking back on some of his best moments as well as looking towards the future. It’s amazing what he has accomplished at such a young age. Struve plans on making this birthday a special one and in order to accomplish that he needs to use his God given abilities along with all of the hard work he has put in.
“Every win is a great achievement for me,” Struve continued. “My last win against Pat Barry was great; I got the Submission of the Night bonus so that made it even more special, especially coming off a tough loss. I’m proud of all of my victories; my win against Stojnic was memorable because of the huge cut on my face. People still talk about that. I have had a lot of great moments and I plan on making many more. Everything that ends a fight is a good memory for me whether it is by submission or knockout, as long as I get my hand raised.”
Struve would like to thank all of his coaches, training partners and everyone else who has supported him throughout his MMA career. He would also like to thank Boost Mobile who has been his sponsor for his past few fights. For more information on Struve you can follow him on Twitter @stefanstruve.
PHOTO CREDIT - UFC