It's hard to keep a good fighter down, and even while healing up a broken jaw, UFC Stefan Struve is already eyeing his return to action later this year where he hopes to face a true legend in the sport.
Struve is currently spending some time in Los Angeles training and just waiting for a doctor's appointment in a few weeks to hopefully gain clearance to get back into MMA sparring for his return to the Octagon in the late summer or early fall.
"The first couple of weeks weren't too good, couldn't really chew or whatever, but from the start, I could eat," Struve told Bleacher Report about his recovery on Monday.
"I just put it in a blender and eat that way. I thought it would be a lot worse. The worst part was I had to wait nine days for surgery when I got back from Japan because they thought I might have a bacteria with me from the hospital over there, so that was the hardest part, the waiting. The rest, it's healed really good. I go home in two weeks to Holland, and the week after I have an appointment to get cleared.
"I plan to be back in September/October, so no need to rush it. That's what I'm looking at, and hopefully, that's going to work."
Even in the short time that Struve has been inactive, healing his jaw, the heavyweight division has changed dramatically. Junior dos Santos is once again the top contender in the division, Fabricio Werdum is storming his way up the rankings, and Stipe Miocic, whom Struve defeated in 2012, just put on a dominant performance over top five-ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson.
Struve knows, when he jumps back into the fray later this year, the division could be changed yet again, but he's hoping to get back on winning track while facing one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
"A fight I always wanted to have is a fight with Big Nog," Struve said about his desire to face former UFC and Pride champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. "I would still love to have that fight. I think it makes a lot of sense right now since we're both coming off a loss. That's definitely a fight I would love to have around then."
Nogueira has been a mainstay around the top 10 of the heavyweight division for more than a decade, and while he is coming off a defeat in his last fight against Werdum at UFC on Fuel 10, Struve knows he's still as dangerous as he's ever been.
One thing he wants to make clear, however, is that he doesn't want his desire to face Nogueira to be perceived as a "call out." He wants to face the former champion because it would be an honor to share the Octagon with him and believes they would put on a fight to remember in heavyweight history.
"I've got a ton of respect for him, and he knows that I respect him a lot," Struve stated. "I've been watching him since I was 10 or 11 years old. I remember waking up Sunday mornings in Holland and putting on the computer trying to get my Pride stream going to watch Nogueira."
"He's always been one of my favorites, if not my favorite fighter. The way he fights with that much heart and always finding a way to win. It's been awesome to watch him fight, and I think the fans would really want to see that matchup too. I think it's a really great fight to make. Fireworks are guaranteed in my opinion."
Over the last few years, Nogueira has gone just 3-3 while dealing with a mounting list of injuries that have slowed him down for several months at a time during certain points. Despite the .500 record, Struve believes that Nogueira is still one of the best heavyweights in the world and that's exactly why he wants to face him next.
"People change their opinions every single minute. Especially in this sport, you lose one fight, and you're the worst fighter in the world, and then, you win your next one and you only have to beat Cain (Velasquez) or Junior (dos Santos) to become champ in their opinion," Struve commented.
"He's a great fighter. I've got a ton of respect for him and things change really fast, especially in this division. One punch can change everything."
Nogueira is currently healing up from having surgery on his arm and should be cleared for training in about three months. It may push back Struve's timeline for a return, but with Nogueira as his top choice as an opponent, he's ready to sign the contract today if the UFC sent him the bout agreement.
"I would love to test my skill against him," Struve said. "I think it makes a lot of sense with both of us coming off a loss, and I think our styles match up really well. Just for me, it's a matter of signing a contract if they want to do it."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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