The drama between Duane Ludwig, his prized pupil T.J. Dillashaw, and their former associates at Team Alpha Male is well-documented, and Ludwig is hoping that Dillashaw’s recent win over Alpha Male ace Cody Garbrandt buries that storyline for now.
Ludwig was in Dillashaw’s corner when the former bantamweight champion reclaimed his title at UFC 217, knocking out Garbrandt in the second round of their grudge match that stemmed from Dillashaw’s split from Team Alpha Male back in 2015. Since Dillashaw made the move from Sacramento to Denver to train primarily with Ludwig, there have been plenty of insults and accusations hurled from both sides.
On a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Ludwig explained how he avoided getting caught up in the war of words.
“I tried to look at from a broader perspective and just realize that it was an excellent challenge because they really knew how T.J. and I trained, they understand our system – our system of three years ago, we’re always progressing and improving – and it was just good to get another win and not really make it personal but just keep it business,” Ludwig said. “And that’s the best way that we both operate… I chose to take the high road in all this and not really get into a battle about anything and just make sure that we’re focusing on the task at hand, and that’s improving in our martial arts skillset so that we can become the best that we can and not jump on Twitter or any social media handles and bicker back-and-forth with anybody, but to, again, focus on the task and hand and improve…
“Because we had a lot of people look at us right now and how were we reacting to that, how we would react when someone gets in our face and challenges us to a fight and just bickers and brings up all this – it seemed to me seriously like I was back in high school. That’s what it felt like. So it was good for me to experience that again and show the people that were watching how to handle that situation, so I am grateful for the way it went down.”
Ludwig believes that so much of the problems between himself and Dillashaw and their former team came from having “different perspectives on the same situation.” Alpha Male leader Urijah Faber claims Ludwig and Dillashaw left the team to go into business for themselves, while they have maintained that they were essentially kicked out.
Now, Dillashaw is building his own team in California while still working with Ludwig, the coach who has helped him twice capture UFC gold. According to Ludwig, Dillashaw was always supposed to split time between California and Colorado, but the messy divorce from Alpha Male squashed those plans.
Even with all of that hanging over the Garbrandt feud, Ludwig insists he still cares for his former training partners.
“I’ll always make time for T.J. and he knows that,” Ludwig said. “I’ll always make time for a lot of people, even after the fight with Cody, I had a heart-to-heart with Danny Castillo, it was really emotional for me, I generally love and care for those guys, we’re a family and a team and to have this drama, f**king I was crying and s**t, I was like, ‘Man, I love you guys, if you need anything please let me know, I’m sorry there has to be drama.’ It just goes back to my personality, if I’m in, I’m all in… I just want to say I still love those guys, I’m sorry that there’s drama and hopefully we can move on.”
That said, Ludwig still sees future conflicts with Alpha Male fighters in the distant horizon. While their top priority is having Dillashaw drop down to 125 pounds to battle flyweight king Demetrious Johnson, a rematch with Garbrandt also seems inevitable.
“Cody, he got dropped and got up right away, as soon as T.J. was punching him the second time when it got stopped, he was up right away,” Ludwig said. “There is no quit in that kid. He is definitely a tough character, you cannot look past him at all. He is super fast, he surprised me. I was going, ‘We’re in for a fight after that first round,’ so I knew we had to change things up.
“I do see him in the future for sure, without a doubt. It could be next year. We’ll see how much the UFC likes him and how much the fans want to push him to see a rematch. He’s going to have to earn his way up, I mean he got stopped in the second round. I think he needs to make a couple of fights and works his way back up just like T.J. did.”
As for the man that Ludwig reportedly butted heads with during his time coaching in Sacramento, Ludwig is a fan of the idea of Dillashaw going head-to-head with Faber, his former mentor, and he agrees with Dillashaw’s assessment that it would be an easy payday.
“Not to be disrespectful, I’m not trying to be an assh**e in any way, but that would be a pretty easy fight for T.J,” Ludwig said, later adding, “Anything can happen in a fight, but because I used to coach both of them, I used to watch them spar many, many rounds, so I have memories of which direction the sparring rounds could go.”
Ludwig thinks that UFC owners WME-IMG – an entertainment industry giant – would be all for the spectacle of the 38-year-old Faber coming out of retirement and skipping the contenders’ line to fight Dillashaw, solely for the interest it could generate due to their shared history.
It’s that same history that has Ludwig feeling confident in Dillashaw’s chances should that match ever come to fruition.
“It’s not solely me, but I helped (Dillashaw) a little bit,” Ludwig said. “But he does improve and Faber doesn’t improve. He had a very hard time picking up my system. He’s just set in his ways and that’s good because it’s been successful, but the sport has evolved and he hasn’t so it would be in my eyes a pretty easy fight for T.J. and I would like to see it just because they’d both make some money off it, it would be good for the sport, in every direction it would be good.
“I’m not looking forward to dealing with drama again, they seem to love drama, I do like to stay away from that, if it does happen, just let it be a regular fight where we train and we do our interviews and we go and fight.”