SB Nation Exclusive: Stefan Struve Talks Path To UFC, Sean McCorkle And St. Pierre Vs. Koscheck

via cdn1.sbnation.com

Aside from being one of the UFC's youngest fighters at only 22 years of age, Stefan Struve is also its biggest. Coming in at 6-feet-11, Struve even looks big standing next to former five-time UFC heavyweight champion and one-time Blind Date strike out artist — Tim Sylvia. Struve and McCorkle round out what looks to be a pretty entertaining card at UFC 124 in Montreal and are slated as the co-main event.

Not too much is known about the mild-mannered young Dutchman. People seem to gravitate towards his odd appearance, letting it define him and selling him short on his other qualities. The man hasn't made it this far based purely on his size, so how did he get here?

It wasn't easy. Struve was taking phone calls from all over the world, flying out to fight the guys no one else wanted to. By the time he was 20, Stefan had fought over 18 times in eight different countries. I've been told the UFC is the least chaotic and most organized backstage, but what is it like fighting in some of these countries? Places like Russia, Finland and South Korea.

"I never picked any of my opponents so I would be called up by promoters and would fight anywhere - just like I told the UFC. I always like traveling and fighting in different countries, meeting different people and experiencing different crowds. I fought in Siberia once in a town called Bratsk and had one of the best times I've ever had. We stayed for about a week. When you think of Siberia, people think you can't have a good time there. It was a pretty cool experience. Who goes to Siberia?"

He's a regular Russell Crowe.

After turning pro at only 17 years-old, Struve amassed a very impressive 16-2 MMA record in his first three years of competition. Pretty soon it was time to start looking at the bigger shows. With Affliction, DREAM and the UFC all in hot pursuit, Stefan had to figure out where he would make a name for himself. Obviously, everything seems to have worked out for the best, but what is the thought process like for a young free agent shopping different promotions?

"For me, it was really important that I sign with a promotion that could offer me a stable contract. I wanted some certainty. With DREAM, they didn't give me that, didn't give me a good feeling. We talked to some guys like Antoni Hardonk and were able to ask them a lot of questions about the UFC. We thought it would be the best choice and a lot of people were saying the same thing. We were still trying to figure out what we were going to do until Dana White called my trainer. He heard we were doubting who to sign with. He told my trainer they wanted me pretty bad. That helped." 

Stefan signed with the UFC and would make his debut against a very game Junior dos Santos just three days after his 21st birthday. His manager spoke a bit about the harsh realities for UFC newcomers, but Struve doesn't make any excuses for the loss.

"I haven't heard a lot about that but it would have been easier if I fought someone else. Junior was coming off that big win against Fabricio Werdum so he came into the fight with a really good feeling. For me, it was my first fight and the UFC jitters came."

After rebounding with back-to-back wins against Denis Stojnic and Chase Gormley, Struve scored a close decision victory over veteran Paul Buentello. A win Stefan says he still feels pangs of disappointment about. 

"Well, I took the fight with Paul Buentello on short notice. I had fought in LA about five weeks before against Chase Gromley. I stayed in Las Vegas for about a week and half afterwards and Joe Silva asked me if I wanted to fight Paul Buentello at UFC 107. I immediately said yes, but I only had about three to four weeks to prepare myself. It wasn't the best camp. I ran out of gas during the fight, so I wasn't happy with the decision." 

"For this upcoming fight I did all my training in Holland with my team and head trainer — Bob Schreiber. I have a ton of great guys working with me on my ground game and standup. It was a great camp."

With Brendan Schuab being one of Struve's fellow Alchemest MMA crew, could a move to the Grudge Training Center in Colorado be in the works?

"I haven't been invited to come train in the US but I have spent some time training with Antoni Hardonk in LA. I would love to come back for some more training in the US."

At 6'11, I can see how size could play a pretty big role in the gameplan, but how does someone that tall utilize it during transitions and on the ground? What is it like grappling with someone who may be six to eight inches shorter than you?

"Well, you have to learn how to best use your body on the ground. If you do, it will become an advantage. With the long limbs I can lock up things much faster than other people. The striking is another huge plus with the size. I'm getting better with every fight learning how to use my reach. I'm still improving and I think I'm going to improve once I can add some more muscle and weight to my size."

Struve's opponent — Sean McCorkle — has really taken the trash talking to new heights leading up to this fight. Pretty impressive for a card headlined in part by Josh Koscheck. Gaze upon some of McCorkle's handy work. You can follow him on Twitter @BigSexyMcCorkle. WARNING - Some of these tweets are enough to make Redd Foxx blush.

The only thing Stefan Struve has ever finished in his whole life is "another guy off"

Stefan Struve was once arrested for impersonating a cocksucker

If I were a woman or a gay man, Stefan Struve would definitely not be my type.

Stefan Struve likes black guys. Just sayin

There's no way a dirty communist like Struve beats an American patriot like me. Freedom always wins, Struve. And these colors don't run!

If I were homophobic I would be terrified of Stefan Struve

Stefan Struve puts the "anal" in pre-fight analysis

I could go on, but you get the point. I find this kind of tomfoolery unnecessary, but far be it for me to judge how someone else prepares to fight another half naked man in a cage.

"They're not really annoying. I don't pay much attention to it. I've never had a guy trash talk so much before a fight. It's funny, but some of them are kinda 'you know.' I'm 22 and he's like 34 or 35? Maybe even older. (ed. note - he's 37) It should be the other way around. Come on, grow up man. I'm getting a little annoyed but I'll talk to him next week. I don't like him and I'll do my talking with him next week in the octagon. I promise the people in Montreal one hell of a fight."

Any thoughts on the UFC's shifting heavyweight division right now? Ready for the bigger names in the division?

"Those guys are all really good, very well rounded. If you look at Brock Lesnar he's really strong and has some great wrestling. With Cain Velasquez and Shane Carwin you have guys who can fight on the ground and on the feet. I'm only 22 so I can still add a lot of weight to my frame and improve my ground work and standup. There's no rush but whoever the UFC wants me to fight, I'll fight anybody."

Who ya got in the main event? Georges St. Pierre or Josh Koscheck?

"I think GSP is among the top three best - maybe even the best - welterweights in the world. Koscheck impressed me with his last couple performances, but I think GSP is just too good for him. Koscheck does have a big right hand, though. It could happen, but I don't see it happening fast, not a quick win either way."

Tune in Dec. 11 to see Stefan Struve take on Sean McCorkle at UFC 124. 

 


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