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Stefan Struve back sparring, hopes to fight 'in early spring'

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If everything goes according to plan, Stefan Struve could be back in action before you know it.

"If all goes well, I hope to fight in early spring," said Struve on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "We'll see how it goes."

Of course, there are several hurdles for the seven-foot UFC heavyweight contender from The Netherlands to clear before he reaches that point. But considering that just six months ago, the 25-year-old was diagnosed with a heart condition that appeared to put a halt to his athletic career, the mere fact Struve has progressed to this degree is music to his ears.

"I feel much better than in the past," Struve said. "I have lot more energy now, not just in training, but when I have a day off, I'm not tired in the evening anymore or whatever. I'm feeling great."

Over the summer, Struve was admitted to the hospital was diagnosed with both an enlarged heart and a bicuspid aortic valve. His medication since that time has greatly decreased the amount of leakage from his heart, and he has resumed training and even sparring.

"The medication helped me a lot,I'm feeling so much better, it's really exciting to me," said Struve I started sparring already because I was already in shape and training 80 percent, we did five, five minute rounds of sparring. It was perfect, I wasn't tired afterwards."

While Struve's condition will never go away completely, he says things are under control.

"As it is right now my heart is still bigger than the heart of a normal human being," Struve said. "But the thing is, half of that is because I'm as tall as I am, and the other half is because I'm an athlete and my heart adapted to the size it needs to be in order to pump blood through my body. I was born with [his condition] and that combined, if you go to long with that without it becoming treated, then it becomes dangerous."

Struve began to suspect something was wrong during the leadup to his last fight, a knockout loss to Mark Hunt, which ended a four-fight winning streak.

"My last fight, I pretty much believe we lost the fight because of this," Struve said. "I was so low on energy. I never felt as bad as I felt in the cage, I was so low on energy, I could barely stand on my feet. It was the most difficult part for me, going out with a loss like that, winning four fights with four finishes, and then go out like that. My body just stopped late first round, it didn't do what I wanted it do to anymore, I could barely stand. It was crazy."

Struve said that his doctor in the Netherlands told him he would clear him for a fight based on how things look now. But Struve, of course, understands that this is simply the first layer. He's coming out to Los Angeles soon for further tests, and if he gets the green light from there, will still have to contend with the patchwork of regulations from commission to commission as he looks to return to the Octagon.

"Every commission is different, we need to look into that, of course," Struve said. "I'm not worried about it, for how much it has improved since half a year ago. I was training so much, and the leakage became more and more because I was training so much week after week. The week of the fight, I was tired so much, low on energy, we thought it was because of that, but now we know this, it explains a lot of things."

Struve admits to having a case of the nerves when he first returned to training. But once he got back into the rhythm of training, there's no place he'd rather be.

"When you start training again and when you get the news, you're thinking your heart, its a scary thing," Struve said. "But the thing is, there can be so many things wrong with your heart, the thing I have focuses on cardiac output, so you are a lot more tired, you don't really have the oxygen you need. Right now, I really do have the energy needed to be in the kind of training in the future the fights. I had this my entire life, and this being so much better now, I look forward to getting back better than I've ever been.