T.J. Dillashaw and Duane Ludwig have worked well together. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The recent conflict between Team Alpha Male founder Urijah Faber and Duane Ludwig, the camp’s former striking coach, has made for a number of juicy headlines.
The drama continued last week when UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw announced that he would be leaving the Sacramento-Calif.-based camp to train at Elevation Fight Team in Denver. While Dillashaw was regarded as Ludwig’s prized pupil at Team Alpha Male, the coach says that he did not play a major role in the fighter’s decision.
“It was mainly his own decision; I won’t say it was all his own. Ultimately he’s the one who said yes or no. I actually wasn’t involved in any of those negotiations,” Ludwig said during an interview with the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show.
“His deal with [Elevation Fight Team] was strictly his deal. I’m not teaching there; I don’t have anything to do with that team. But they send guys to me and I send guys to them....When this drama all started blowing up we just all kind of handled it separately. It wasn’t like me and T.J. were going back and forth and talking. We were just kind of letting each other handle our own business.”
Ludwig operates his own gym, Bang Muay Thai, in Broomfield, Colo. He says that his relationship with Dillashaw will continue even as the champion puts in work at Elevation alongside the likes of Brandon Thatch, Neil Magny, Cat Zingano as well as other new additions such as Matt Brown and Clay Guida.
“T.J. and I train at my academy. He’ll be doing most of his sessions there at Elevation, and he’ll get mitt work on the side at my academy,” Ludwig said. “I will pop in there on the sparring days and make sure we’re doing what we need to do for T.J. , but I’m not involved with the Elevation Fight Team.”
With Ludwig in his corner, Dillashaw pulled off one of 2014’s biggest upsets by dethroning then bantamweight champion Renan Barao at UFC 173. Since then, the Cal State Fullerton wrestling standout successful defended the title twice, besting Joe Soto before handily dispatching Barao in their rematch at UFC on Fox 16 this past July.
Ludwig has received his fair share of credit for Dillashaw’s emergence as an elite talent, but “Bang” believes that the 29-year-old would have been champion even without his guidance. Dillashaw is expected to defend his belt against Dominick Cruz at UFC Fight Night in Boston on Jan. 17.
“100 percent, yes [he would have been champion]. 100 percent,” Ludwig said. “No one needs me. I think everyone who works with me does better with me than without me, but nobody needs me.”
Meanwhile, Ludwig makes it clear that he would like to move past the highly-publicized feud with Faber, who recently banned Dillashaw from training at Team Alpha Male.
“I’m definitely looking forward to having this all behind us. It’s happening now. I just want to make sure we’re focusing on improving and enjoying our journey, living our lives and helping each other out,” he said. “That’s what we need to be doing is helping each other out and not fighting, not arguing, having any bad blood.”
Which is why Ludwig isn’t opposed to working with some of his other old Team Alpha Male pupils again should the opportunity arise. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
“My door is 100 percent open to all the guys out there if they want to come out. It’s definitely open, and we’ll see what the future holds,” he said.
In the meantime, Ludwig expects Dillashaw to thrive in his new environment, even if old bridges might have been burned.
“I think it’s good to have access to both camps. This is martial arts in general; we need to be all working together, not closing the doors on one another. I think best scenario is for him to be out here but still have access to the guys, to go out to Sacramento and get some work in and have those guys come out here and go back and forth. How they used to be, when everybody was working together,” Ludwig said. “With T.J. living here [in Colorado] full time he’s going to make a lot more gains in the sport in every field because he has dedicated coaches in each field now. So the time between camps he’s going to make huge improvements.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how this rolls out. Because in Sacramento he was kind of just doing the same things here and there. But when he’s out here between camps he’s going to be adding a ton of new tools to the toolbox.”