Coach Duane Ludwig (right) praised the drive of student T.J. Dillashaw. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Former Team Alpha Male coach Duane Ludwig has some strong feelings about the work ethic of UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw as compared to the rest of his training partners.
“He actually wants it. T.J. is the only one that actually wants to be a champion,” Ludwig said during an interview on SiriusXM’s “Fight Club” on Tuesday. “T.J. trains a lot harder and a lot more focused than anybody else on that team -- period.”
Not long ago, Ludwig served as a striking coach for the Sacramento, Calif.-based team, which, along with Dillashaw, boasts Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and Danny Castillo among its members. Ludwig parted ways with Team Alpha Male last year in order to open his own gym in Colorado. However, many fighters from the renowned camp continued to work with the UFC veteran.
“I’m not really leaving Team Alpha Male,” Ludwig said on “The MMA Hour” in June 2014. “I’m opening up a business in Colorado. It’ll be a good place for the guys to do high-elevation training, and I’ll still go to Sacramento and help in the camps and corner.”
UFC welterweight contender Martin Kampmann was tabbed to replace Ludwig at Team Alpha Male, and while some fighters from the camp might still work with “Bang” on occasion, his involvement appears to have diminished. Dillashaw remains a favorite student, however.
Team Alpha Male fighters had their share of title opportunities -- Faber, Mendes and Benavidez have all recently vied for UFC gold -- but Dillashaw is currently the only member of the stable to have won a championship within the Las Vegas-based promotion.
Dillashaw captured the 135-pound belt with an upset victory over Renan Barao at UFC 173 and defended it against Joe Soto at UFC 177. He will rematch Barao in the UFC on Fox 16 headliner on Saturday night. Dillashaw’s success is no accident, Ludwig says.
“There’s just certain people that want it more than others. He has a stronger drive, a stronger determination. He actually believes that he can be champion and he’s the one that puts in the extra work, asks the questions, trains a bit harder, takes less breaks,” Ludwig said. “Danny Castillo works really hard as well; Danny overtrains himself. T.J. is just very smart on how he trains as well.
“It was just a difference, if you see the whole Alpha Male team train, T.J. sticks out.”
Mendes was the Team Alpha Male member to most recently fight for a title, but he suffered a second-round TKO loss to Conor McGregor for the interim featherweight strap at UFC 189. While Mendes took the fight on less than three weeks’ notice when Jose Aldo withdrew due to a broken rib, Ludwig suggests that Mendes’ out-of-camp work ethic might have led to his demise.
“It was obviously a short-notice fight, and he’s not always training. He’s not one of those guys that’s not always in the gym training hard,” Ludwig said. “He wasn’t in the best shape for the fight anyway. I think if Chad was in shape it could have been a different outcome. It definitely would have been a different fight.”
Mendes did not work with Ludwig ahead of the McGregor bout, nor did he do so ahead of the featherweight’s unanimous decision defeat against Aldo at UFC 179. Had Mendes taken a different approach, Ludwig believes “Money” might already have a title in his trophy case.
“I’ll tell you what: No one needs me, but everyone that works with me is going to do better with me than without me, that’s for sure,” he said. “I feel with the proper camp, Chad could be wearing the belt right now. I felt that too when he fought Aldo the second time. Prior to the Aldo fight we didn’t work together. I went back to Colorado. The plan was he was supposed to come to Colorado and do some work. It just didn’t work out. There’s little things that Chad could be doing, and he could be wearing the belt right now.”