Forgive Stefan Struve, but all he wants to do is continue growing. While that seems strange for a man that stands 6’11 tall, the tallest fighter in the UFC, Struve knows he is still developing every time he steps inside the Octagon.
At 23 years old (he turns 24 on Saturday), Struve has nearly as many career wins, 22, as he does years walking the Earth. Yet when talking with Struve, he still feels there is a long way to go until he reaches his potential.
That potential was first flashed in the UFC at UFC 95 in February 2009, just days after his 21st birthday, where Struve lost to future heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. While Struve acknowledges he was overwhelmed at the time, he was back in the cage just four months later, defeating Denis Stojnic at UFC 99. Now he is set to hit the double-digit landmark, entering the Octagon for the tenth time in his career. But even with that, Struve maintains the objective is the same as it was three years ago.
“I’ve learned so much, but I still have a lot of growing to do,” Struve said when speaking with MMAFrenzy.com. “I’ve come a long way during my career, but there are things I still need to learn. I still need to use my size better, which I did not do in my losses to dos Santos and Roy Nelson. But I feel I have been improving a lot, and I will get even better now that I have a new striking coach.”
On Wednesday, those improvements will be put to the test against Dave Herman at UFC on Fuel TV 1 in Omaha, Nebraska. Coincidentally, “Skyscraper” takes on a fighter known as “Pee-Wee”. But even with the opposing nicknames, Struve feels the pair puts together a terrific matchup.
“Dave and I are both known to deliver exciting fights,” said Struve. “He had a great fight in his UFC debut against [John-Olav] Einemo back in June, but I feel I am better on the ground and standing up against him.”
“I’ve noticed that he is a brawler that backs up a lot while he fights. I look forward to fighting that kind of style, especially because it will be quite different to my last opponent, Pat Barry, who moved forward throughout our fight.”
In that fight, a second round submission win over Pat Barry, Struve was able to battle through the striking of the kickboxer. However, Struve was fighting with a twelve inch height advantage, something he will not experience against the 6’5 Herman. But Struve feels he will be fighting with a different advantage this time – experience.
“I am probably the best guy he’s ever fought,” Struve said. “He doesn’t have a lot of notable guys on his record, and his last win was over a guy [Einemo] that hadn’t fought in five years. I am a big step up in competition for him.”
Struve feels he too will be taking a big step on his own in the near future – cutting weight. Weighing in at 240 pounds in his UFC debut in February 2009, now Struve is nearing the 265 pound weight limit every time he steps on the scale. He has continually built muscle mass in the three years since. While he admits he is not quite at the point of having to cut weight, he knows the time is nearing.
“Right now, my weight comes off naturally during training camp,” Struve explained. “But I would say I will have to start cutting weight in about a year. Pretty soon I’ll have to cut weight to make the weight limit. But for now, it is still right around that limit during my camps.”
Add that to the list of challenges that Struve has had to go through due to his height and size. Even though he never trains with guys that stare back at eye level, Struve feels he has been able to accommodate his style for his body.
“My size takes nothing away from my wins,” said Struve. “My striking is different than guys that are my size or close to my size. Plus I have a better ground game than almost anyone at my size. And I am always developing.”
Even as he continues to develop, it is obvious that the “Skyscraper” still feels he is only scraping the surface of his potential.