UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve has gone through a gauntlet of personal struggles while making his comeback to the Octagon.
Not only was the towering fighter dealing with a leaking aortic valve, but also the decline in health and, ultimately, death of his father.
All he can do, Struve revealed, was focus on the positive, despite there seemingly being none on which to focus. One has to use all their energy to find the slightest bit of positive in situations like Struve’s, and then grip it with the ferocity of a fight-ending rear-naked choke.
“I think it’s always really important to be that way,” Struve told The Great MMA Debate Podcast, addressing his efforts to stay positive in such a difficult time. “Why would you be grumpy over whatever? You can’t change anything about it. Why would you stress yourself out by not feeling good? That’s the last thing you should do. I always stay positive. We were also dealing with my dad being very sick at the time, and he also passed away in October. The only thing you can do in times like that is be positive. Take all the positives out, even if it’s the smallest things in the world. Just try and grab onto those and hold onto those.”
The 6-foot-11 heavyweight had to step away from fighting in a cage so that he can fight a completely different battle. In August of 2013, Struve was diagnosed with a leaking aortic valve and expanded chamber in his heart. The condition left the notion that Struve may never compete in MMA again.
In conversations with doctors, Struve received the grim news about the potential end of his professional fighting career, and it made him hope for a miracle. Fighting typically served as a way to relieve stress. But without it, all he could do was have faith things would improve.
“I was dealing with a lot of stuff, and it’s really difficult because you’re out and you’re injured,” he said. “But it’s not like a knee injury or whatever; it’s something that has never happened before. The prognosis wasn’t good, so we were just hoping for some sort of miracle, doing everything the doctors told me.”
It was soon after his diagnosis that Struve was forced to endure dealing with both his recovery and father’s declining health. But it seemed like the heart condition was an afterthought for a while, Struve explained, because losing his father took away a lot of the attention on himself.
Losing a parent makes one forget about their other problems.
“I should have been focused on myself, but his illness took away a lot of the attention,” he said. “Maybe in one way that’s good because I wasn’t thinking of it too much, but more about my dad. But it’s been a really crazy year for me.”
Following the personal struggle at the end of last year, 2014 showed to have some promise. In April, Struve finally got the clearance he was looking for and was told by doctors that he can return to his form of stress relief: MMA.
Now the only fight Struve has to focus on is the one with Matt Mitrione at UFC 175, which is scheduled to take place next Saturday in Las Vegas.
The upcoming fight is one that Struve said he’s excited to have, mainly because Mitrione asked for the Dutch fighter upon his return from injury. Struve saw that as a slight, recently telling MMAWeekly.com that it’s “pathetic” to ask to fight a guy that isn’t even cleared to come back yet.
Much like the struggles Struve dealt with last year, the fight with Mitrione is personal.
“Big mistake by him because I’m gonna absolutely show this guy.”
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