Abu Dhabi, UAE — For the first time in 2020, towering heavyweight Stefan Struve will return to the UFC octagon. At UFC 254 this weekend, “The Skyscraper” will take on Tai Tuivasa.
For Struve (29-12), it’s his first fight since suffering defeat at the hands of Ben Rothwell in a fight marred by low blows last December. Since that time, fans have left the building, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The Dutch fighter is not expecting things to be any different in the end this weekend, however.
“It’s the same thing. I’m going to go into the cage and there’s going to be a guy on the other side that’s going to want to take me out,” Struve said during the UFC 254 media day on Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter how many people are in the stands or whatever.”
Struve, however, did admit that “I do enjoy the way it’s all set up here. Having the workout room next to our own hotel room, instead of having to share the workout room with 10 to 12 other people, and the workout room’s always hot because they have to cut weight and stuff, and they smell most of the time— it’s nice to have that space to ourselves.” As he put it, Abu Dhabi has “everything a fighter could wish for.”
“And if it’s not here, you ask for it and they get it,” he added.
Opponent Tai Tuivasa is in an interesting one for Struve. The Australian likes to stand and bang, and brought the “shoey” into the lexicon of MMA fans.
“He’s an exciting fighter. I always enjoy watching him fight. He brings something to the table that not a lot of people have, personality and his fighting style,” said Struve. “I think it’s a good match-up for me.” Struve hopes to fight the way he did against Rothwell all those months ago. “Before those low blows, he didn’t get a single shot in with me. If I fight like that, then Tuivasa isn’t touching me either.”
The other factor ahead of the bout is Tuivasa’s recent fortunes. He’s lost three straight, and earlier this year revealed that he’d been cut by the UFC. He was given a reprieve, it seems, but as someone who has been through a similar slump himself, Struve can relate. “You question why it’s happening,” he said Tuesday.
“You’re fighting higher level competition. But of course you’re going to question yourself, and if you’ve got to change some things around, all that stuff,” he explained. “For the rest, I know what I can do, when I lost those fights. I questioned some things of course. I changed some things. But at the same time, he’s a really good fighter, and he knows his strengths, and he knows what he needs to do when he goes in there.”
The fight business is just plain unpredictable to boot. “Sometimes you get what you’re looking for, and sometimes you don’t. Especially on this level, when there’s two guys going in the cage, and one guy’s got to lose. You’re both looking to win, and you don’t always get it,” Struve noted. “Not everybody’s going to be a world champ.”
UFC 254 takes place on “Fight Island” (Yas Island) in Abu Dhabi at the Flash Forum on Saturday, October 24. The main card airs live on PPV following televised and online prelims.