Struve has mentored under Bob Schrijber (right) or nearly a decade. | Photo: Jim Page/Sherdog.com
Struve, who has also dedicated himself to a healthier diet, will patiently wait for his physical strength to match his in-cage constitution. Even at 23, Struve is known as one of the heavyweight division’s more resilient competitors, as evidenced by his comeback victories over Denis Stojnic and Christian Morecraft. According to Struve, his never-say-die attitude stems from the sacrifices he makes in training.
“I’ve put so much effort into [my career]. Everything I do in my life for the last eight to 10 weeks of my training camp is about the fight. There are so many things I give up, like going out with my friends. I go to bed early every day right now, [even on the weekends]. Sometimes I want to eat something [unhealthy], but I have to keep my diet going,” says Struve. “There is no ‘give up’ in me. I just want to win so bad. I think it also [has to do] with character, with the way somebody is, you know? I don’t want to lose, no matter what. I will keep going until I can go no more.”
Though one might assume such a quick rise to prominence might inspire an equally impressive ego, that notion becomes far-fetched when Struve speaks of his family and his team.
“I couldn’t wish for a better family. My parents always supported me with any sport I wanted to do, and they always made sure that we could have what we desired,” says Struve, crediting his upbringing. “Growing up, I wanted to be a soccer player. Soccer is huge in Holland, and I played it until I was 14 years old. Then, my brother took me to [Dutch MMA pioneer] Bob Schrijber’s gym one day. “I loved it so much that I didn’t leave the gym,” he adds. “I came back almost every day. A year and a half later, I had my first fight. Bob’s gym was only 10 minutes from my house. I’ve been with Bob for my whole career. He taught me everything.”
Struve’s first and only amateur fight came at the age of 16. After knocking out his foe with a head kick, Struve recalls that he could not get another amateur fight due to lack of interest from potential opponents. At 17, he turned professional, winning 11 of his first 12 bouts.
“To me, [fighting] was fun. It was my hobby. I loved to do it, and I still love to do it; although now there is a little more pressure than back then,” says Struve. “The only fear I had -- and still have -- is the fear of not showing everything I can do. There’s no fear of getting injured. There’s no fear of getting knocked out. My only fear is that I will have a bad performance.”
Though Struve is not yet chomping at the bit to avenge his two Octagon losses, he is well aware of the mistakes and missteps that contributed to his aforementioned defeats to Nelson and Dos Santos.
“I let them close the distance too fast. As I’ve gotten a lot bigger and stronger the last couple of years, it’s been easier to use my reach. There’s a lot more power in my punches and kicks, and it’s easier to keep people at bay now,” Struve explains. “With Roy, I was sick for that fight. I’m still [disappointed] about that [loss], because I think that if I hadn’t been sick that I could have done so much better.”
Regardless of where Struve’s career path takes him, it seems a good bet that the “Skyscraper” will take his time in getting there, and that Schrijber will be by his side as he does.
“We have a saying: never change the winning team. I’ve been winning since I was 16 years old. Of course, we’ve been asking other people for their opinions and training with other people, but everything I do, I try to do with Bob,” says Struve. “The bond I have with him is really good. Bob and his wife are like family to me. We’re really close, and they’re always in my corner. I trust them, no matter what. I couldn’t be more thankful for the way my career is going.”