At 6-foot-11-inches, Stefan Struve is the talest fighter in the UFC. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Stefan Struve is in no hurry.
The 23-year-old Dutchman is well aware that his career is just beginning, despite having 25 professional fights to his credit. Struve has racked up a 5-2 record since joining the UFC in 2009, his only Octagon losses coming to heavyweight contenders Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson.
Both defeats came in the first round, both by knockout.
While some might obsess over such setbacks and plead for quick rematches, Struve speaks of the defeats casually, confidently explaining that he will get his shot at redemption -- and the heavyweight title -- in due time. According to Struve, the only fight on his mind is the one he will have against fellow prospect Travis Browne at UFC 130 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“To be honest, I’m not really thinking about [avenging those losses or earning a title shot]. The only thing in my mind right now is that I have to fight Travis Browne,” Struve tells Sherdog.com. “The nice thing with my career is that I just turned 23. There’s no rush. I’m only going to get better in the coming years, so it’s not like I need to beat those guys right now. I’ve got plenty of time.”
Though the undefeated Browne did not impress in turning out a draw in his Octagon debut against Cheick Kongo at UFC 120, Struve still expects fireworks in his fight with the Hawaiian.
“He was disappointed with his performance against Kongo. The first round was OK, but [that fight] didn’t tell me much,” Struve says. “I expect him to come out and push the pace, especially in the first round. He’s got heavy hands and kicks, so I need to watch out and not get hit. But I think it’s going to be one hell of a fight, especially for the crowd.”
The tallest man in the UFC, Struve has used his 6-foot-11 frame to turn back most who have opposed him in the cage. According to Struve, however, he is still in the process of learning how to use his natural gifts to the best of his ability.
“The small, stocky guys might be stronger, but if you know how to use your reach and use your body in the perfect way, I think that’s a big advantage,” he says. “I’m trying my best to use my reach to its fullest, and I’m getting better at that with every single fight.
“One example is Jon Jones’ guillotines,” Struve adds. “If you look at how he locks it up and how much strength he can deliver, that’s a great example of how long arms or legs can be good on the ground. And if you look at my record, I don’t even know how many wins I have by triangle. I have a lot of submission wins. In my opinion, [ground fighting] is easier, because [I can attempt] submissions from weird angles.”
Struve has dedicated himself to fortifying his considerable natural gifts with improved standup and ground work since his most recent appearance in the Octagon netted him a first-round technical knockout victory over Sean McCorkle at UFC 124.
“I think that all of the aspects of my game have improved since my last fight. I hired [UFC pioneer] Remco Pardoel as my jiu-jitsu trainer. In my opinion, my ground game has improved a lot [between] my last couple of fights,” he says. “I have a great team and great sparring partners. I’m also training with [Dream light heavyweight champion] Gegard Mousasi’s team -- with [K-1 fighter] Daniel Ghita -- so I think I’ve improved a lot.”
Outside of improving his technique, the young heavyweight is also packing on the pounds. Although Struve admits he will need to beef up in order to contend with the division’s more powerful contenders, it comes as no surprise that the lanky prospect approaches this aspect of his training deliberately, as well.
“The last time I checked my weight, I was 262 [pounds]. We don’t want to do it too fast. After every fight, we just want to get a little bigger and a little stronger. If you do it too fast, you’re going to lose cardio and speed and agility. We don’t want that. I’m only 23 years old, and I’m going to get a lot bigger naturally,” says Struve, detailing his timeline for adding mass to his frame. “I think in two to three years, I’ll be up around 290 [pounds]. I’m adding about five to seven pounds after [every fight]. I just want to keep my body running as smoothly as possible, but I do want to get bigger and stronger. And I need to, because the guys in that division are monsters.”
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