Stefan Struve Cleared to Resume Sparring, Plans Spring UFC Return

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterJanuary 13, 2014

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Five months after being diagnosed with a leaking aortic valve that threatened to end his mixed martial arts career, UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve is nearing a return to the Octagon.

Struve, 25, made the announcement on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. In six weeks, he will return to his doctor in Holland. If he receives the all-clear, he will travel to Los Angeles for a second opinion. If cleared by the second doctor, he will return to full-time training and plans to fight in the UFC at some point in early spring.

After receiving clearance from his doctor a week ago, Struve began sparring in the gym, an activity he hasn't undertaken since being diagnosed with his condition. Struve told host Ariel Helwani that he felt great after completing five five-minute rounds.

"I felt great. I wasn't even tired," Struve said.

On August 20, Struve's manager Lex McMahon released a statement detailing the Dutch kickboxer's condition.

Stefan Struve has recently been diagnosed with a leaking aortic valve and an enlarged heart and was hospitalized for a week to undergo testing to determine the best course of treatment. The doctors found that Stefan has a bicuspid aortic valve, which means that his aortic valve only has two leaflets, instead of three.

The aortic valve regulates blood flow from the heart into the aorta, the major blood vessel that brings blood to the body. In combination with the enlarged heart it causes his heart to only pump 70 percent of the blood into the aorta and then the rest of his body, and the remaining 30 percent ends up back in the heart chamber.

On October 8, 2013, Struve was cleared to return to fighting after a doctor's visit. His doctors told him during the visit that the leakage back into his heart had been greatly reduced. In addition, his enlarged heart was determined to be the result of a condition often called Athletic Heart Syndrome, which sometimes affects athletes who train rigorously for more than one hour per day.

Struve has not competed in the Octagon since a March 3, loss to Mark Hunt at UFC on Fuel: Silva vs. Stann in Saitama, Japan. Prior to that loss, he'd notched four consecutive wins, with his sole loss since 2010 coming to top contender Travis Browne.