One of the UFC’s longest tenured heavyweights, Stefan Struve isn’t exactly in the most comfortable position heading into his next fight.
“Skyscraper” makes his 22nd walk to the Octagon on Saturday when he fights Marcos Rogerio de Lima in the heavyweight co-main event of UFC Prague. At 12-9 in the UFC, Struve has won more than he’s lost, but that doesn’t mean much when you’re on a three-fight skid with your last win coming in October 2016.
Few fighters in company history have been able to remain employed under these circumstances, a fact that Struve is well aware of given that UFC Prague marks the final fight on his current UFC deal. Appearing on The MMA Hour on Monday, Struve discussed how he has to mentally prepare himself knowing the stakes of the de Lima fight.
“You try to not be in the spot where you’re worried about winning, although you always need to be worried about winning because that’s why you go in that cage,” Struve said. “It’s frustrating that I lost three fights in a row, but at the end of the day I treat it just like any other fight. I believe in myself, I feel good, there’s nothing in my head that holds me back, so I just need to fight hard and go in there and get my hand raised.”
Struve has gone the distance in his last two fights, unanimous decision losses to Marcin Tybura and Andrei Arlovski. He also made it to the third round of a five-round main event bout against top contender Alexander Volkov before succumbing to strikes. He feels that he “had good moments in all those fights” but “the coin flipped that way and they were better that night.”
There are adjustments he knows he can make and he acknowledged the oft-suggested criticism that at seven-feet tall, he could be making better use of his physical gifts.
“I agree with it partially, I think I’ve gotten way, way better with it,” Struve said. “In the beginning of my career I didn’t really fully understand how to use my reach, how to fight long. I always came forward and was looking for a fight and I was looking to be the aggressor. But now I really understand it, if I fight like that with smaller guys who are more explosive, I’m going to end up on the short end. It’s simple as that. So I really had to develop that and I think I’ve gotten a lot better with it.
“Unfortunately, in the last couple of fights it didn’t always show, but I didn’t really get caught as much in those fights. It was more the takedowns in the last two fights that cost me the fights, almost knocked out Tybura in the last fight with a head kick and I was doing pretty good on the outside, but he was sharp with his takedowns. I believe that fighting tall and being smart with it will be one of the things this weekend that’s gonna get my hand raised.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Struve was on a 3-1 stretch that included a 16-second KO of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and at 31 years old, he is still young compared to the average heavyweight. Ideally, he wins on Saturday and begins a new chapter with the promotion he’s called home for the past decade.
Otherwise, he’s willing to consider other options.
“This is my last fight on my UFC contract, so we have to renegotiate after this,” Struve said. “My first choice is to stay with the UFC, but there is also interest in players outside of the UFC and at the end of the day we fight for money. So that’s going to be interesting for me after this fight. Another reason to get a nice win. For the rest, it’s all about winning. Winning and not getting hurt in there.”