Stefan Struve is a giant man and believe it or not, he's still getting bigger.
The 23 year old heavyweight out of the Netherlands is six feet eleven inches tall. His height earned him the nickname "The Skyscraper" but at such a young age, he's still growing into his body and packing on muscle to his lofty frame.
He tells MMAmania.com in this exclusive interview that he's only planning on getting larger.
"I've been getting a lot bigger lately. You saw at my last fight I was already 254 lbs at the weigh-ins. I'm gonna be about 260, maybe more at this fight. I believe that because I'm getting bigger and stronger, all the techniques are coming together easier and I feel that there's a lot more power in my body now. With the technique I already have and the power I'm starting to get, it's getting a lot easier to spar and fight heavy guys because I'm really starting to notice that they feel the impact."
"If you look at me now, there's a big difference than my first fight in the UFC. I believe that if I can go up to 285-290, that would be a good weight for me and then I'd cut down the week before the fight and step into the Octagon at 280-285. I think that would make a big difference in my opinion."
Struve is gearing up to face fellow heavyweight and knockout artist Travis Browne on the main card of UFC 130 later this month. He tells us that he'll be 'ready to bang' when the cage doors close on the 28th.
"I'm always training every aspect of the game. I'm always working on the ground game and I'm always working on my stand-up. This has been a really good training camp with some really good sparring partners. I added some new coaches to my team as well. The fight starts standing and I believe he's ready to bang on the 28th and I'm ready to bang so we'll see where the fight goes. I'm not afraid of the stand-up that's for sure."
In nearly all of Struves UFC fights, he's absorbed significant damage. He ate a ton of punishment against Denis Stojnic, Paul Buentello and Christian Morecraft before coming back to win and his inability to dodge the power strikes cost him against Roy Nelson and Junior dos Santos. He's been taking extra steps to improve his striking defense lately including bringing in one of of the top kickboxers in the world.
"We've really been working a lot on striking defense especially because if you look at the small UFC gloves and you put your hands at your head and try to take shots, the shots will get through. We've been working a lot on head movement and blocking shots. I've been working really hard and I can't wait to show it off."
"I've been sparring with Daniel (Ghita) since before my fight at UFC 104 against Chase Gormley. Lately we've been sparring a little more and it's been going great. He's one of the best in the world in the K-1 kickboxing scene and he's a big guy. He's about 250 lbs and his hands are world class. We get in there and get sparring but still we don't knock each other out or anything but I learn a lot from him. "
Struve's upcoming opponent, Travis Browne, is undefeated and is currently 1-0-1 in the UFC. The Dutch fighter believes all the ingredients are there for an amazing fight. He also feels that Browne's pre-UFC opposition was less than impressive.
"I think Travis is a great test for me at this point in my career. He's an exciting fighter to watch and he's got skill both on his feet and on the ground. It's gonna be an awesome fight. This is only his third fight in the UFC but I believe it's gonna be a big test. Unfortunately, he's not a big name but for now I'm focusing on him."
"I watched tape of him and my coaches watched as well. He's got powerful striking and some powerful kicks. He's a strong guy and his wrestling's pretty good. I believe off his back he's not that good and if he's in top position, I'm not that scared either because my guard is really strong. In my opinion, it's gonna be a great fight. He's undefeated but his biggest test was Kongo and for both of those guys, the fight was disappointing."
"The other guys he fought before the UFC weren't that good if you look at his record. He fought six guys that are 0-1 and that doesn't say very much and his biggest win was James McSweeney or Abe Wagner. He's got a couple okay knockouts but his record doesn't tell me much, more of his style, pace and habits."
In preparation for his upcoming fight, Struve branched out and began having his training filmed documentary-style. The first two episodes are already available. While "The Skyscraper" certainly isn't looking past Travis Browne, he'd love nothing more than to continue to progress and eventually settle the score with Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson down the road.
"Those guys are really good. I'm only focusing on this fight but for the future it would be very good to rematch both guys. I think Junior (dos Santos) will get his title shot, I think he's gonna win his upcoming fight. A rematch with Roy (Nelson) would be great in a couple years but there's no rush. I really want to just fight and keep improving right now. They beat me and those losses opened my eyes to some important things that helped tighten up my game and I worked hard on them. For the future I definitely want a chance at those guys though."
Stefan closed the interview by giving his prediction on what fans can expect come May 28th.
"I want to say that I plan on finishing the fight. It's either going to be a knockout or submission and I think it'll be one hell of a fight. Travis would say the same. We'll both be ready on fight now. UFC 130 is going to be an awesome event and I'm gonna make sure and try my best to make this fight of the night."
What do you think Maniacs? Will "The Skyscraper" reign supreme at UFC 130 or will he get leveled?