New champ Dillashaw grappling with coach’s move
Newly crowned UFC bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw will embark on that journey as he sees head coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig move 1,100 miles away.
“I’m going to continue to train with Team Alpha Male, but I’m going to cross-train with Duane,” Dillashaw said. “I’ll go out and train with him when I’m not in camp, and I’ll fly him out when I’m in camp.
“I’m going to continue to work with Duane. He’ll be in my corner. I plan on getting my black belt with the guy. He’s a genius. But … I’ve got to stay with Team Alpha Male. They got me where I’m at. They’re the best sparring partners you can get for my weight class.”
Dillashaw, 28, hasn’t always been considered seen as the most high-profile athlete at California’s Team Alpha Male. That title was generally reserved for team captain Urijah Faber, followed by former UFC title challengers Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez.
In UFC 173, Dillashaw (10-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) became the first Team Alpha Male fighter to claim a UFC belt when he dominated champion Renan Barao (32-2, 7-1) from the opening bell en route to a fifth-round TKO win.
“That was a crazy moment, for sure,” Ludwig told USA TODAY Sports. “It really was a storybook ending.”
It was Ludwig’s final fight as head coach of Team Alpha Male. He announced in March that he would relocate to Colorado to open his own gym, ending his tenure with the team after 17 months. During that run, Team Alpha Male fighters flourished, rapidly improving their striking skills under the muay Thai master’s tutelage.
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“I’m always going to be there for the guys if they choose,” Ludwig said, “but right now I’m not scheduled to help him train or be in the corner.”
With Dillashaw, Ludwig doesn’t think distance can derail the work of the last 18 months.
“We have a special bond, and that’s not something I ever want to let go,” Ludwig said.
Ludwig says Dillashaw is primed to remain champion, regardless of whether a rematch with Barao or No.1 contender Raphael Assuncao comes next. As long as the team stays true to the system, Ludwig says it will thrive.
“They have to keep playing with all the drills that I’ve instilled in them, because it’s what brought them together and brought them to a different level,” Ludwig said.
Ludwig says Dillashaw is the best prepared of the entire crew to deal with the change in training approach.
“To go in the cage in the Vegas crowd, for the title, main event, pay-per-view, friends and family watching … to go in there that comfortable and confident and pull it off with such ease can only be done by a champion,” Ludwig said. “Not just anybody can do that.”
George Garcia contributed to this report. Garcia and Morgan write for MMAjunkie.