UFC

Struve out with heart condition

Stefan Struve
Stefan Struve is out indefinitely after discovering a heart condition.
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Mike Chiappetta

Mike Chiappetta has documented the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts since 2006 for news organizations including SB Nation, NBCSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, AOL and ESPN. He appears regularly as an analyst on countless television shows and radio programs, including CBS Radio and MMA Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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When we last saw UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve, he was knocked out by a jaw-shattering Mark Hunt left hook in March, a defeat that halted his four-fight win streak and put him on the shelf to recover. That injury has healed, but unfortunately, Struve’s return to the octagon is still on an indefinite hold due to health concerns. During recent medical exams, the 7-foot Dutchman was diagnosed with a leaking aortic valve and an enlarged heart, conditions that could jeopardize his career.

The news was first reported on Tuesday’s edition of UFC Tonight.

Struve's manager Lex McMahon told FOX Sports that the problems will be treated by medication for the next two months, and afterward, an assessment will be made as to the protocol’s effectiveness.

"The first and foremost issue is certainly Stefan’s health," McMahon said. "The decisions that are being made are holistic in nature, meaning obviously we're concerned for his health first. And secondarily, once we know we’ve answered the question of what’s best for his health, it's, Can he continue with his career? We’re all focused and hopeful that he absolutely will. Until he's told that he can't, he's still a UFC fighter and he's still moving forward in that line."

McMahon said the concern began after the 25-year-old Struve had been feeling lethargic and short on energy.

On Wednesday, July 24, at about 4 a.m. in Seattle, where McMahon was staying prior to the UFC on FOX show in town, he received a call from Struve and his coach Bob Schrijber to inform him Struve had been hospitalized. It turned into a one-week stay until the diagnosis was made.

During tests, doctors discovered his aortic valve had only two leaflets instead of three. Coupled with his enlarged heart, it causes his system to pump only 70 percent of blood into his aorta and eventually the rest of his body, while the remaining 30 percent returns to the heart chamber.

His medication will attempt to reduce the size of his heart in hopes of addressing the leaky valve.

"As one would expect he’s run the gamut of emotions," McMahon said. "First, very distraught upon receiving the news. A bit of denial. Why me? I'm so young. But also you’ve seen the Stefan Struve character shine through. Very positive. He's determined to beat this and resume his career and live a long and healthy life. He's focused on not only getting back to the UFC but becoming UFC champion. That's his goal. His outlook and frame of mind is determined and very positive."

Currently, doctors are allowing him to do cardiovascular workouts at up to about 80 percent of his peak levels, but he’ll refrain from sparring and hard training for the foreseeable future.

Struve (25-6 overall, 9-4 in the UFC) had targeted a December fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and while a return timetable cannot be generated, that's still the hope if and when he returns.

"His plan is to get past this and see where the heavyweight division is," McMahon said. "If Big Nog is still a viable opportunity, I think he'd love that, otherwise we'll see where we are. He has to battle his health issues first, and we'll take the rest from there."

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