All things considered, Stefan Struve was mostly encouraged by his return from a brief 10-month retirement, even if he ended up losing under questionable circumstances.
That said, this past Saturday’s fight in Washington, D.C., opposite Ben Rothwell will go down as a loss on Struve’s record, the result of a Rothwell flurry near the end of round two that led to the bout being waved off by referee Dan Miragliotta.
Up to that point, much of the action appeared to favor Struve, and “Big Ben” had been deducted one point for a low blow after a second errant kick to the groin.
The repeated fouls – and the crowd’s reaction to those illegal strikes – left Struve feeling slightly bitter. The 31-year-old heavyweight told MMA Fighting that being struck below the belt definitely affected his performance and contributed to him fading as the fight neared its conclusion.
“I don’t hold any animosity against Ben, because I don’t think he threw those kicks on purpose,” Struve said. “I do think you are responsible for what you throw in that cage. Even if it wasn’t intentional, they did their due and the fight changed completely in my opinion, after those shots.
“So even though I made the decision to continue, nine out of 10 fighters they’ll continue, that’s the thing. You get kind of screwed by the rules in my opinion, you need to be protected more.”
It’s Struve’s understanding that if the foul had occurred in the third round, it would have been an easier call not to continue. The judges could have rendered a technical decision based on the action they’d seen so far. But as it happened, Struve had no interest in taking a no contest, especially since he felt he was up on the scorecards.
While Struve would like to see more use of replay to assist the referees (perhaps resulting in point deductions being handed out more frequently), he did not have any particular gripes with Miragliotta. He also defended the veteran official against accusations he inappropriately coachedStruve to continue the fight. Miragliotta could be heard telling Struve that he was likely ahead in the judges’ eyes; Struve said he’d already come to that conclusion.
“He said, ‘You’re probably ahead on the scorecards,’ which I knew for sure especially after he took the point away,” Struve said. “I won the first round 10-9 easily, the second round I won 10-9 too and then after that deduction it was 10-8. Rothwell was down 20-17 at that point, so he had to go all out.
“The bad news for me is I was recovering, trying to get my breathing going again, and he was recovering while he was fresh.”
Struve also had to deal with a hostile crowd that had little sympathy for his plight. A veteran of 41 pro bouts, Struve did not rush himself back into action. However, he admitted that the noise definitely messed with his head.
“I never really had this happen during any fight,” Struve said of the crowd’s reaction. “It was weird because I was dealing with recovery and all that stuff happened, (and) it definitely does something with you. You want to continue, at the same time you’re like, ‘Hey man, just give me my time,’ because they really don’t know what I’m feeling right now. It was weird. It was a weird night.”
Did the weirdness in the arena give him second thoughts about coming out of retirement?
“I don’t control that,” Struve said. “I don’t control those things. That’s why I’m frustrated, but I’m also able to let it go, because it’s out of my control. What I did come back for is to show that I still got it. I can still compete with the best in the world.
“I was flowing, I was—in my opinion—easily winning that fight. He wasn’t hitting anything. He couldn’t take me down. I think I looked as good as I ever did in there, so that’s the things that I can control and next time I go in there, I’m going to look even better.”
Health-wise, Struve said he’s mostly fine, though he does have contusions on his right shin and foot. If anything, those marks are a point of pride. On several occasions, Struve was confident he was controlling the fight and landing almost every kind of kick he threw at Rothwell.
Of course, there’s another area of Struve’s lower body that took some unexpected punishment on Saturday, and he didn’t shy away from describing his discomfort in great detail.
“I’m good,” Struve said. “No real damage was done. The package is still a little sensitive. [The pain] moves around, like it goes into the abdomen, and goes into my kidneys when I move. It’s crazy because you think when you get kicked in the package it hurts right there, but everything around it cramped up.
“That was the whole thing, I didn’t expect that. That was something I really had to deal with, really let that go and relax. It was crazy.”
Struve bears no ill will towards Rothwell, and he made sure to reach out to his fellow heavyweight afterwards to let him know that that was the case. As for Rothwell, he was apologetic, but said post-fight that he is ready to take his win and move on. Struve is not campaigning for a rematch either.
In Struve’s eyes, he’s already convinced that he did enough to show he was the better fighter and the opponent he wants next is whoever is ready to sign a contract to face him.
“I’m not really interested in [the rematch],” he said. “I don’t really care who’s on the other side of the cage. I sign up to fight, and there’s a show and a win bonus, and that motivates me. I like doing this, but I really feel that I was screwed in this fight with the rules. But I don’t really care about a rematch. I think I looked great in there against him.
“The things that happened don’t really make me want to have a rematch. It doesn’t really make sense to me to have a rematch because of that.”