After well over a year out of MMA competition due to health complications, UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve will finally make his return this weekend at UFC on FOX 13 against Alistair Overeem.
Stefan was originally scheduled to return to competition at UFC 175 in July against Matt Mitrione, but was forced out of the event on fight night after fainting in the locker room. Speaking just days before this Saturday's card, the Dutchman says he's now back to his old, healthy self.
"I'm just back to being me and being positive," Struve told MMAFighting.com. "The side-effects from the medication I was on... I don't ever want to feel like that again - depressed, all the negative things would get more negative. I was just not able to be me with that, but I'm back."
Now, thanks to being on a new, better medication and also receiving coaching from a psychological specialist, Struve¬†is feeling far better pre-fight than he was back in July; although he admits the normal nerves are still very present.
"It's fight week, you get anxious. But the way I felt in the locker room (at UFC 175) was like something I've never felt before. It was just no fun. I was really good at dealing with the pressure in the past and I tried to deal with it the same way I always did but then I put the medication in my system and, obviously, it's a little different then."
Despite being inactive for so long, Struve still remains ranked in the official UFC rankings at #15 in the heavyweight division. A win over #11-ranked Overeem would prove he is still very much in the game. And Stefan isn't exactly expecting the best Alistair ever.
"If you look at his last couple of fights, he got one win and no¬†offence¬†to him but they way he got that win against Frank Mir, Frank¬†didn't seem like he wanted to fight," he said regarding his upcoming opponent. "He's not the same fighter he was, that's no secret. I think everybody agrees on that. You see mentally he's not the same fighter, physically he's not the same fighter; he's not as imposing as he was. I think he's dropped down a tremendous amount of weight since he fought Brock Lesnar, so it's definitely a completely different fighter.
"But, the thing is, I don't care what he does. I don't care how much he weighs, I don't care how strong he is. I'm me. If I fight my fight and push myself to fight the best fight I can fight, he's not even coming close to beating me."
Competing in the main event at UFC on FOX 13 is Stipe Miocic, who Struve earned his last victory over at UFC on FUEL TV 5 in September 2012. If Miocic is able to defeat his opponent this weekend, former heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos, he should find himself very close to a title shot.
Struve believes he's still at that same championship level, and intends to prove it to the fans in his Octagon return.
"Time has flown by, like over two years since we fought in Nottingham. And then another guy, Mark Hunt, who was my last fight (at UFC on FUEL TV 8, March 2013) just fought for the belt. Stipe has got a good chance of earning a title shot this Saturday. That's where I'm at, that's my level. I just need to show it in the cage again, and that's exactly what I'm going to do Saturday. Simple as that."
UFC on FOX 13 is set to take place on Saturday December 13th at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.