With bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw back in the spotlight heading into his second title defense this weekend, a bit of controversy has stepped back out of the shadows with him. Namely, his head coach, Duane "Bang" Ludwig and Ludwig's less than ideal split from Team Alpha Male. At one point, Ludwig was the coach-du-jour in MMA. The next big name in training, revolutionizing the way the game was played. Most of that recognition was off the back of his work with Team Alpha Male, and the technical improvements fighters in that camp showed on his watch. The culmination of that run came when Dillashaw (Ludwig's prize pupil) became the first Alpha Male product to wear UFC gold. That moment also marked the end of Ludwig's time out in Cali.
Whether it was Ludwig's self stated desire to set out on his own and create his own brand, or possibly some ill will on behalf of Uriah Faber that the camp he built had so quickly become "Team Bang Ludwig," or more likely a combination of the two, relations have been a bit publicly strained between Ludwig and Alpha Male since the split. It appears that animosity isn't about to go away, as Ludwig recently made statements that "T.J. is the only one that actually wants to be a champion" out of the Team Alpha Male camp.
Asked by Ariel Helwani if he regretted that sentiment, here's what Ludwig had to say:
"I don't regret it because ultimately, if you want something you're going to figure out a way to make it happen. No one trains as intense or as focused as TJ, period. I mean, there's champions and then there's 'champions,' period. TJ wants to be the best in the world. Not the best of another organization, the best fighter in the world, period. They're all striving for the same goal, to be the best, right? But, they're just... I mean, he's a very rare human being, TJ. And you don't see this all the time, right? There's one guy in the division, in the whole world, and that's TJ. If you wanna do that, there's certain things you need to do to be the best guy in the world. And I don't see that in everybody. And not everybody can do it.
"What did Michael Jordan do different than the other guys? I mean, it's as simple as that, right? He was the first one there, last one to leave, [unintelligible], paying attention, asking questions. You know, I'd never been in that position, I'm not quite sure what it is. And I didn't make TJ, the team didn't make TJ. We all helped together to make TJ. TJ was a born champion, that's for sure."
He did however say that he felt bad that it may have created more of a rift:
"Yeah, and I feel bad about that, man. I do. It's not to discredit... Like, Lance Palmer has got two world titles, RFA and WSOF, and he's done amazing things, but I would like... I want what's best for everybody and point out the positives of Chad, I mean TJ and not bring anybody else down.
"Speaking of Chad though, Chad could be wearing the belt right now. There's just a couple of things that he needs to fix and he could be wearing the belt right now. He could beat Aldo. He... Actually, I think he beat Aldo in Brazil and I think he would run through McGregor if he was in shape.
"I feel bad, man. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Look man, I love the guys, I love the team, we didn't leave on bad terms. I literally love the guys. I felt horrible leaving and now I feel bad for saying that, right? But, it's the truth. There's champions, then there's 'champions.'"
Dillashaw himself addressed the distraction saying that he has to juggle both but not choose sides, which is very likely a problem the champion doesn't need heading into his next title fight. It will be interesting to see if this split continues of whether the two sides will eventually be able to bury the hatchet at some point in the future.