Tomorrow, Stefan Struve will step inside the Octagon for eleventh time in his career, facing "Big" Lavar Johnson on the main card of UFC 146 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UFC 146 will be the first ever all-heavyweight line-up in promotion's history, headlined by UFC Heavyweight title fight between Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir.
Stefan Struve is currently on a two-fight winning streak, with victories over Pat Barry and Dave Herman (fights Roy Nelson on the same card). At the age of 24, Struve solidified his status as one of the top Heavyweights in the UFC, holding an impressive record of 7-3 inside the Octagon (23-5 overall).
Coming from a country that invented "total football", Struve is well-rounded Mixed Martial Artist, who always delivers exciting fights. We had an opportunity to speak with "The Skyscraper" about his fight with Lavar Johnson, title shot mix in the UFC, and who will win next month's Euro 2012 in Poland-Ukraine.
Can you talk a bit about your training for this fight, and what kind of state of mind do you have right now, just three days before stepping inside the Octagon with Lavar Johnson?
You saw me training for my last fight. This time I basically did the same thing, so I’m in a very good shape and ready to win. As for now, two days before the fight, I’m just relaxing, doing my media obligations and following the usual pre-fight routine. I’m confident in my abilities to beat Lavar Johnson, so there’s no pressure or whatsoever.
How do you feel about the late opponent change? Did you ever think about not taking this fight?
The fight got changed just eight days ago, but then again, I was alre – so it was really a no-brainer whether I want to fight Lavar or not. I took the fight immediately.
Johnson has heavy hands, and no one can take it away from him, but all of his losses are via submission, including the fight with Shane del Rosario in Strikeforce. Do you think that your biggest advantage in this match-up is on the ground?
If I take him down then he’s in my world. It’s going to be my night if I take him down. But also in stand-up, I know he hits really hard, but I think my kickboxing is way more technical. If I get my gameplan going, he shouldn’t be able to touch me.
I would like to ask you about #RallyForMarkHunt. To me it seemed like fans almost forgot Hunt has a fight with Stefan Struve at UFC 146. You’re both on winning streaks, but it looks like he’s getting more credit…
To be honest, I don’t really care about it. People can say whatever they like. When Mark entered the UFC two years ago everybody said he shouldn’t be in the UFC, and that he's not on the same level. But now, after he won some fights in a row, same people say he should get a title shot. Things doesn’t really work this way. But you know, that’s how MMA fans talk.
In light of Johnson's impressive performance against Pat Barry, do you think a victory on Saturday could become a title shot statement?
I don’t know man, I really don’t think about it right now. I take it fight-by-fight, so right now the fight with Lavar Johnson is the only thing I can think about. But we’ll see what the UFC decide after this fight.
This will be your eleventh UFC fight, and we are always talking with you about constantly improving, but do you personally feel like you have already matured as a fighter?
When I have a good day, I can beat anyone in the UFC. That’s my opinion. I take it fight by fight. I grew physically and mentally in the last few years. I know I can compete with anyone in the division.
Do you have any prediction for Saturday night? Submission / KO / Decision?
Well, you know I don’t like predicting my fights. The only thing I can promise is that I’m definitely going out there to get the finish. So my prediction is submission or KO in Round 1.
Okay, and now to the most important question of this whole interview - do you think the Netherlands will win Euro 2012?
(laughs) Of course! We have the team to win this competition. It's going to be a good one.