Stefan Struve waited nearly 16 months to return to the Octagon. Ultimately though, it wasn't meant to be, as the seven-foot Dutchman, who last August was diagnosed with a leaking aortic valve as well as an enlarged heart, collapsed backstage at UFC 175, leading to the last-second cancellation of his pay-per-view fight against Matt Mitrione.
"Tonight, during my warm up prior to my scheduled fight with Matt Mitrione at UFC 175, I began experiencing discomfort and anxiety," Struve explained to MMAFighting.com. "However, given my extended layoff as a result of my recent medical issues and the passing of my father, I dismissed my physical and emotional feelings as nothing more than nervousness. Unfortunately, as my warm up progressed, I collapsed in the locker room. After consulting the UFC and the doctors, the determination was made that in an abundance of caution I should not be allowed to compete.
"While, I am deeply disappointed that I was not able to perform for myself and the fans, I respect the decision and know that my health is the most important issue. I want to thank the UFC, Dana White, Lorenzo Fertita, Burt Watson, the Nevada State Athletic Commission and Dr. Jeff Davidson for putting my safety first and showing tremendous compassion and empathy in a difficult situation. I also want to apologize to Matt Mitrione, he spent long months preparing to compete and was not able to do so. I want to thank my team, coaches, management and family for their unwavering support. Finally, I want to thank the fans for being by my side and supporting me throughout my career. I will take some time to myself to evaluate my health and career. Thank you for your support and understanding."
According to UFC President Dana White, both heavyweight fighters will likely be paid their show and win purses as a result of the last-minute bout cancellation, and UFC officials will likely book Mitrione to compete in an upcoming event.
For Struve though, the situation marks yet another speed bump in an already tumultuous 16-month stretch, which saw the 26-year-old not only struggle to preserve his health in the face of such dire heart problems, but also suffer through the loss of his father after a year-long battle with cancer.
"From what I can understand, the doctors think he started hyperventilating," UFC President Dana White said of Struve on FOX Sports 1. "And you start thinking about it, the guy knows he has this serious condition before, and I don't know, the heart rate went up, blood pressure dropped, all the things that happened. At the end of the day, I don't care what it is, you're better of cancelling the fight than risking it.
"I don't know (whether he should continue to fight)," White added. "He's been cleared by a doctor. It's something that he has to look at deep inside of himself and decide. I just, I respect that he loves this sport so much and that he wants to compete and do it, but you shouldn't ever love anything so much that you're willing to put your health at risk. And even though he was cleared by every specialist and doctor, and the commission and everybody else, something messed with him tonight. Something messed with him, so we'll see how it goes."