Stefan Struve’s brother Nick got him into mixed martial arts at age 15.
The 6-foot-11 Dutchman also credits Nick for keeping him in the sport after he mangled an eye in his first pro fight two years later.
“I know my parents probably wouldn’t have been OK with me turning pro at 17,” Stefan Struve told FOXSports.com in advance of Saturday’s UFC on Fuel TV 5. “My first pro fight didn’t go really well. I tore something in my eye to the point where you couldn’t even see my pupil. I couldn’t see my parents allowing me (back in the ring) if I didn’t have my brother backing me up.”
Struve (28-5-0) actually won that first fight in his native Holland that night where Nick headlined. Now, Stefan is atop the card in Nottingham, England, against Stipe Miocic in a five-round heavyweight bout (coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. ET).
And he’s a little bit taller, which makes sense why he’s nicknamed “Skyscraper.” He admits it took a while to get used to his size and a little longer to harness it.
“When I got into the UFC (in 2009) I was about as tall as I am now, but I wasn’t really strong,” Struve said. “That’s something that I’ve improved on. I wanted to have more power behind my punches. I have that now. It’s important for me to keep guys at a distance and use that power. That’s where I can do damage, by making them stay on the outside and picking them apart.”
Struve won his last three fights, each by stoppages. His latest was a first-round submission of Lavar Johnson at UFC 146 in May. Struve said he expects to use his reach again to handle Miocic, a former college wrestler known for his striking ability.
“I think I’m (prepared for) everything,” Miocic said. “I’m going to try some different angles and make him feel off balance. I’m going to have to get inside his long reach and make him work.”
Miocic said he’s prepared for a long fight, something Struve doubts will come to fruition.
“Five-round fight? It’s not a five-round fight,” Struve said in the buildup to the fight. ” This isn’t going five. It is a one- or two-round fight, depending on when I finish him. I am not worried about going five rounds if it happens. . . . I’ve changed nothing in my training. If it goes longer, OK, but I think this is a quick fight.
Miocic enters with a 9-0 record in MMA, including a 3-0 mark in UFC. His UFC wins were against Shane Del Rosario (second-round KO), Phil De Fries (first-round KO) and Joey Beltran(decision).
Miocic, who is 6-4, is not only at a size disadvantage, but when he enters the octagon at Capital FM Arena he also will be at a home mat disadvantage. The Netherlands are a mere 50-minute plane ride away, meaning Struve not only had a short route to travel, but so do many of his fans.
“There are a lot of people coming in from Holland,” Struve said. “My fan base in the UK isn’t bad either. My first fight here was five years ago. I love the gritty mentality of the fans. I pretty much view this as a home fight.”