Heavyweight fighter Stefan Struve (23-4) probably isn’t on the immediate verge of a UFC title shot, but with a 4-2 record in the Octagon, Struve is a tough mid-tier fighter and the kind of guy you need to beat if you want to make your UFC stay more permanent.
Before the fight with Hunt, McCorkle had emerged as an intriguing super heavyweight prospect, winning all but one of his fights via stoppage. A 6’7” behemoth with good movement and athleticism wouldn’t be a fun opponent for anyone.
Still, Hunt was a step up in competition and McCorkle needed to win that fight to prove to the doubters that he was more than an unofficial MMA message board legend making a UFC appearance in his hometown. Heck, even his UFC.com profile lists “Internet savvy” as one of his strengths.
So how does McCorkle feel going into a featured pay-per-view fight following a successful UFC debut?
“Well, it’s a lot better than just being an internet legend,” McCorkle joked.
The magnitude of the moment probably didn’t even sink in until well after the fight. Mainly, McCorkle was happy to have the whole ordeal of going through a UFC debut out of the way.
“The whole thing was cloudy, to be honest with you,” he said. “I was still going in there thinking, I can’t believe I’m fighting Mark Hunt. But I don’t mind that feeling, though. I think it helps you relax.”
After the bout, McCorkle’s cornerman, MMA pioneer Tom Erickson, made sure to remind McCorkle he’d won his first UFC fight.
“[He] told me, ‘You know you just won, right? It’s not just a dream.’ I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t been knocked out and dreamt that I’d won and just hadn’t woken up yet.”
To his credit, though, McCorkle hasn’t forgotten his roots and Struve hasn’t received any special treatment, with McCorkle lobbing insults fast and furious.
Struve has laughed off the comments lately, though he hasn’t always seemed pleased with McCorkle’s shenanigans. He even took to McCorkle’s own turf, The Underground, to initiate a photoshop gala at McCorkle’s expense.
“I thought it’s been pretty funny,” McCorkle said of Struve’s reaction thus far. “He seems to be taking the whole thing personally. I guess maybe being younger he’s more idealistic and doesn’t understand the entertainment side of it.”
McCorkle continued, “My ultimate goal is I want the other guy to laugh. Not for them to like it, but just get it to where they can’t help but laugh.”
Against Hunt, McCorkle enjoyed a huge reach advantage. Struve, on the other hand, has the exact opposite physique of Hunt. Standing at 6’11”, McCorkle will have to adjust to being the shorter fighter.
However, he believes Struve is a better match-up for him, stylistically.
“It’s really hard to take down short, strong guys like Mark Hunt,” McCorkle said. “People say that I pulled guard in that fight, but it was more like I got tossed to the ground.
“I don’t know that I’d necessarily prefer to fight an opponent even taller than me … Struve’s reach will change the stand up game plan a little bit. But I think stylistically he’s a much better match-up for me than Mark Hunt. I don’t think Struve has the same one punch KO-power that Hunt does.”
What McCorkle hopes to prove is that he can handle some of the UFC’s more established talent. McCorkle said that a quick win over Hunt didn’t give fans a good look at what he’s capable of, and even admitted that he didn’t expect to defeat Hunt so quickly.
“I thought I’d take him down but have to use a lot of ground-and-pound to get the submission,” he said. “He came in obviously in good shape, and going into that fight everyone said he was the best he’s ever looked.”
He continued, “I think after I fight him it will give us a really good idea of where I stand in the division,” McCorkle said. “Sparring with guys like Tim Sylvia, Matt Mitrione … I think I know where I’m at personally. I always think I’m a much better fighter than I am sparring partner, because in a fight I don’t care about hitting the other person.”
He doesn’t doubt Struve’s ability or toughness, but McCorkle expects to come out on top.
“He’s a really game, tough guy,” McCorkle said. “But I genuinely don’t feel like I should lose to Stefan Struve.”
McCorkle asked to thank the following:
Iridium Sports Agency, Lexani, Rolling Big Power, TCB Fightwear, and Hayabusa