One of the key storylines coming out of recent UFC events has been the tremendous performance of Team Alpha Male fighters.
While Team Alpha Male has been known for winning fights, they've had issues coming up short in the big ones with Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes all coming up short in their last four UFC title opportunities.
Since the addition of Duane Ludwig as the head instructor at the Sacramento gym, not only has Alpha Male not lost a notable fight, the gym has been winning in increasingly convincing fashion. Faber, Benavidez, Mendes and rising prospect T.J. Dillashaw all crushed their opposition in the last few weeks and things are only looking up.
Ludwig, of course, has a lengthy history as a kickboxer and mixed martial artist. He spoke with MMAmania.com about the positive impact of his recent tenure at Alpha Male, who helped forge his coaching identity and what makes him different in part one of this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Everyone has been ranting and raving about the positive changes you've made at Team Alpha Male. What was that whole week like for you in the fallout of the UFC on Fox 7 event?
Duane Ludwig: I got a lot of love and attention which is appreciated of course. This sport, particularly my position in life, is all about how many friends you have and how much exposure you can get. That's what life's about. I've definitely got some good exposure and I'm trying to use it in a positive way.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You definitely have been getting the love. I can remember from watching the prelims that everyone was raving on twitter about the positive impact you've had on the Alpha Male fighters because not only were they winning their fights, they were destroying their opponents in violent fashion.
Duane Ludwig: That's some good exposure. It's always good for me to get my name out there as a coach especially because most people know me as a fighter. It also helps out my affiliate system. My main thing is I have three goals in life right now. What I need to do is first and foremost take care of my family and myself and then get these guys some world titles and then push my affiliate system which is the next stage of my career. Those are my goals right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Who were the people that influenced you the most that helped mold you as you head into the next stages of your coaching career?
Duane Ludwig: Well, first and foremost it's gotta be Bas Rutten. Trevor Wittman is also the other main guy involved there. They definitely had the most influence on my coaching career now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are there any specific lessons you took from either of them that you apply in your coaching?
Duane Ludwig: What I got from Bas was to make sure I understand that I'm there for the fighters. He was always there for me 100 percent and I make sure I'm there for them to help them along. That's just how I am anyways. I didn't have to be taught that, but it was definitely reinforced by Bas. I get a really strong technical and detail oriented aspect from Trevor Wittman.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Many of the Alpha Male fighters were almost self taught, relying on training against extremely talented teammates to hone their skills. Did you feel like they were almost going through the motions and relying on being terrific athletes?
Duane Ludwig: Yes, that's what I feel. I don't know what the situation was before hand, but from their story, according to them, there wasn't as much structure as far as a head coach and that's why they contacted me. They also contacted a few other people, but I'm the guy that took the job. What it was is they were working together with the whole iron sharpens iron mantra and coaching each other. Now, I take what I do very seriously. I'm a very serious coach, I study tape, make gameplans, give them homework and make sure they're accountable for certain things and bring it together. It's bringing them together as a team and making them stronger. It's working out really well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One of the things that stood out to me was, before you showed up, yeah they were winning fights, but they were winning decisions, occasionally squeaking by some fights, grinding them out. Since you arrived, they aren't just winning, they're crushing people. That seems to be one of the steps you've helped them take.
Duane Ludwig: Yeah, I can't take 100 percent credit because they aren't fighting the same opponents they were before. I don't know what to say about this. They were successful without me that's for sure. I think they'd still be winning. Would they be winning the way they're winning? I don't know, but they definitely have shown some of my influence in their bouts and that's really nice. They've shown that they trust in me and they believe in me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Urijah Faber is a guy that's so busy with all the projects he undertakes, the sponsorships, the commercials and everything else on the side on top of running the gym. That had to be taking so much out of him. Do you feel like you helped take a bit of the load off for him?
Duane Ludwig: Yeah, definitely because he was the main guy there. He's still the main guy, still the main fighter. It's still his show, still his band. I'm just kind of overseeing the operation and making sure that when they're singing their songs, they're in perfect harmony. He took up a lot. I don't know who was running the show when he was gone before and he was gone a lot.
The bottom line is, they have a whole lot of untapped potential. I've seen this and I'm just helping them tap into it. Coming into that potential will make them better athletes, better fighters and help them make more money and capture those world titles. With me being here, I'm adding things, helping them work on their weaknesses, but it's not just me. I'll give them 97 percent of the credit and myself the other three percent. It's just that extra three percent that separates the St. Pierre's from some of the other great athletes in the welterweight divisions. That's what separates the champions from the runners up. I'm there to bridge those gaps and help them adjust to those few minor small details to make those gains to get that strap.