Despite being one of the top young heavyweights in the sport and already boasting at 5-2 record inside the Octagon, Struve is more focused on delivering action-packed fights than chasing after championships. That’s because the towering kickboxer and his long-time trainer Bob Schneider have put together a blueprint for reaching the top of the heavyweight mountain once Struve gets a little bit older.
“I’m only 23, and I train my ass off,” laughed Struve from his home in the Netherlands, speaking with HeavyMMA.com prior to leaving for UFC 130. “Of course you want to win, and there is a little pressure because you don’t want to lose, but that’s why people love my fights. I think they’re always exciting because I fight without pressure right now.
“I just want to give exciting fights, show what I can do. If I get my title shot in a couple years, that’s going to be great, but we set a goal, and if we keep going like this, we’re going to get to that goal in six or seven years.
“Me and my trainer, we both think that in six or seven years I’m going to be at my peak, and that’s when I’m going to hold that belt. If it comes earlier, that’s going to be good, but for this fight, there is no pressure at all.”
This weekend, Struve will step into the Octagon with unbeaten Travis Browne. The Alliance MMA product sports a 10-0-1 record, but comes in off an uneven performance against Cheick Kongo, one that saw the hulking Frenchman lose a point in the final round, costing himself the win and allowing Browne to escape with his undefeated record intact.
Browne doesn’t often give up height to his opponents, but that isn’t the case here. At 6’11”, Struve is every inch “The Skyscraper” his nickname suggest, and while he sees Browne’s size as one of his strengths, the amiable 23-year-old isn’t all that concerned heading into Saturday night.
“He’s 6’7″ but my last two opponents were 6’7″ too and you saw what happened to them.”
In his last two outings, Struve finished both Sean McCorkle and Christian Morecraft, earning a technical knockout against the former at UFC 124, and crumpling the latter with a big right hand in the opening seconds of the second round at UFC 117. Struve believes Browne presents a bigger challenge than both McCorkle and Morecraft, but he’s confident that he’ll come out on the winning end of what he predicts will be an exciting fight.
“I think he’s a lot better on the feet; he’s got more of a kickboxing style. He’s got bigger power in his fists, big power in his kicks. You don’t need to get hit by him, because if you get hit by him, it’s lights out. Although, I got a good chin.
“We both like to throw heavy, we’re not afraid to exchange. It’s going to be awesome. I always come to finish my fight, so my prediction will be that I will finish the fight and it’s going to be one hell of a fight.”
That youthful confidence and his track record of success in the cage lead many to believe that Struve has a bright future in the UFC heavyweight division. He’s shown knockout power and quality jiu-jitsu off his back, as well as the kind of heart that allows him to battle through a gnarly gash suffered against Denis Stojnic at UFC 99.
Though he has a propensity to eschew strategy for slugfests, Struve knows it’s an area he needs to improve, but says there is something that motivates him more than winning when he steps into the cage.
“Maybe there were a couple fights where I should have fought a little smarter. With the Morecraft fight, I got sick in the locker room an hour before the fight. I think it was more because of nerves, but I threw up and I got dizzy. After two minutes in the first round, all my energy was gone.
“I just needed to survive (the first round), and then second round, the only thought I had was to go out there and throw everything you’ve got and see where the fight ends. Maybe I need to be a little more patient sometimes, when keeping someone at distance, but I just like to be in a war, in a real fight, and if I look back at my fight, I want to be proud of that performance, you know. I don’t want to think that I could have done better or it could have been a more exciting fight for the fans.
“We’ve been working a lot on using my reach, but the most important thing to me is that I don’t want to be in a boring fight; I don’t want to hear the crowd boo in my fight. If that happens, I think I need to rethink what I’m doing. I always want to give exciting fights.”
While Struve has continually hit the mark on his main goal of providing the fans with exciting fights, he’s way off-base when it comes to his championship timeline.
That’s because if he keeps impressing and improving the way he has to date, the 23-year-old Struve isn’t going to need six or seven years before he reaches his goal of holding the UFC heavyweight title.