At UFC 130: Rampage vs. Hamill, Stefan Struve will look to get his third win in a row over a fighter that’s yet to taste defeat in the Octagon. Struve’s two previous opponents, Sean McCorkle and Christian Morecraft, experienced their first losses when taking on the six-foot-11 Dutchman, and now, Struve will do what he can to carry on the tradition of making sure fighters learn what it’s like to lose.
When thinking about Travis Browne – whom Stefan faces on Saturday night – Struve understands the tall task at hand and what his opponent is capable of with his stand-up.
“He’s a big, strong guy, but so were the last two guys I fought,” Struve told MMAWeekly.com. “He’s more of a stand-up fighter than the last two.
“It’s going to be the third guy in a row who hasn’t lost yet. That doesn’t (mean) much to me. The only thing that says to me is that he hasn’t fought a guy who is capable of defeating him, and I think I’m that guy.”
When facing a fighter like Browne, one has to think that preparation in the stand-up is key. Surrounding one’s self with grade-A kickboxers as sparring partners is a great way of preparing, and that’s exactly what Struve did. Daniel Ghita, a world-class K-1 kickboxer, trained with Struve in the weeks leading up to UFC 130. The pair focused on improving on Struve’s already-effective kickboxing in an effort to give the 23-year-old fighter an edge on the feet against Browne.
When talking about Ghita, Struve explained that training with the K-1 fighter was nothing less than an awesome, while at the same time painful, experience.
“I’ve been training with Daniel Ghita, who is an awesome K-1 fighter,” he said. “He’s really impressive. His kicks are unbelievably hard. Every time I train with him, my legs are sore, my arms are sore. I learned a lot from him. He’s got really good tips and he’s top-three or top-four in the world in K-1. So you can’t get much better sparring than that, in my opinion, for the stand-up. And he’s a tall guy too. He’s about six-foot-six, Travis is about six-foot-seven, about the same weight as Travis, so it was perfect.”
Browne had recently opened up in interviews about Struve’s experience and how the Dutch fighter never fought anyone quite like him. Struve, however, doesn’t agree with statements like that one bit. On the contrary, “The Skyscraper” made it clear that he feels his experiences from before being in the UFC provided him with unique match-ups and opportunities to see all types of strikers from all over the world.
Europe, especially, featured strikers and mixed martial artists that Struve sees as entirely overlooked.
“I have fought strikers like him before, even before I came to the UFC, in Europe,” he said. “The MMA level in Europe is highly underrated, in my opinion.”
Browne has also recently said that he plans on shining in the stand-up at UFC 130 and essentially feels that’s where he’ll hold the edge against Struve.
Again, Struve disagrees.
When thinking about what kind of offensive repertoire he has, Struve is more than confident that his skill set will be quite enough to show Browne that he shouldn’t think so nonchalantly about it.
“If I were him, I wouldn’t underestimate my stand-up,” he said. “If he thinks too easily about that, then bad things can happen to him on Saturday.”
When Struve wasn’t getting kicked by K-1 fighters or dissecting the pre-fight words of his opponent, he was displaying his personal side for his four-part online documentary, which filmed him in the weeks leading up to UFC 130. It’s a side of him most have never seen, and with it, viewers have a unique opportunity to see what the towering mixed martial artist does outside of the Octagon.
Footage with his family at home showed just how human a professional athlete really is. When reflecting on the experience, Struve said that his favorite part was to watch his mother on camera, as opposed to just him. For once, Stefan’s mother, who has always supported his efforts in combat sports, was a focus on screen and it was all fun for him to be a part of that.
“A lot of people actually liked the parts with my mom,” Struve said. “And it was sure fun to see my mom on video like that instead of me.
“She has always supported me. Same with my dad. My mom and dad are awesome.”