Duane Ludwig on Dillashaw beating Barao, facing Cruz & splitting time with Team Alpha Male
Duane Ludwig got another world title win as a coach this past Saturday as his charge TJ Dillashaw defended the UFC bantamweight title against Renan Barao in emphatic fashion at UFC on FOX Fight Night in Chicago. The first time Ludwig and Dillashaw faced Barao, they shocked the world by finishing the then-dominant champion.
The second time around, Dillashaw really put his stamp on Barao and the division, controlling three rounds of high-paced action and finishing violently in the fourth round. What's more, he did it with the unique striking style taught to him by Ludwig.
That approach of constantly switching stances, and cutting angles is one the coach says he is generally an advocate of, but that fits the athletic Dillashaw particularly well.
"It is a general focus of mine," he tells FOX Sports.
"If you can switch stances, you've got double the weapons, right? So, why not use them? But also, TJ wrestled as a Southpaw but got into MMA and trained orthodox for a year. After he and I started training together, he told me that he felt more comfortable striking left-handed, so we developed that."
Throughout both fights with Barao, Dillashaw looked to be just a bit faster in every exchange than the Brazilian. In a fight, a small speed advantage, over time, can add up and kill.
Ludwig explained that Dillashaw's perceived speed advantage was real, and the combination of the fighter's physical gifts as well as his developed striking skills made the difference.
"It's speed, timing, angles. It's a lot of things. There's a lot that goes into it. But he is also just the faster individual as well," he says.
Following his win, Dillashaw told assembled media that the "biggest" fight for him now would be against former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Cruz lost his title to injuries and time, and not to any opponent.
Cruz is eager for the bout as well, upon his return to action, and has called Dillashaw a "wannabe." The "Dominator" is known for his angles and excellent footwork, and Dillashaw has said that he modeled part of his own style on watching Cruz beat his teammate Urijah Faber.
However, Ludwig tells us that Dillashaw's footwork and skill have already exceeded Cruz's in his prime. As such, the coach is looking forward to that showdown as well.
"The Cruz fight is one I'd love to have happen," he says.
"Cruz never lost his belt in the ring. TJ is definitely the undisputed world champion, and the fight doesn't need to happen, but I think it would be great if it does. TJ's footwork is way better than Cruz. There's little things Cruz does that the average viewer can't tell. TJ is already on another level compared to Cruz."
Whoever Dillashaw fights next, he'll train hard for. However, we asked Ludwig if the fighter's current training situation of splitting time between Duane in Colorado and Team Alpha Male in Sacramento was a sustainable one.
Of course, there's the question of time and money needed to make the trips back and forth from the former Team Alpha Male head coach Ludwig back to the team in California. More importantly, however, is the strained relationship between Ludwig and, at least, the TAM leader Faber.
The relationship would have appeared to be strained further last week when Ludwig said in an interview that Dillashaw was the only member of Team Alpha Male that truly wanted to become a champion, and did the work necessary to become one.
Understandably, that upset many former students of Ludwig's at Team Alpha Male. The coach tells us that those comments were really meant to make the point that Dillashaw is the hardest-working athlete he'd ever been around, and not to denigrate his old students.
Furthermore, he insists that he has no interest in keeping Dillashaw training with him year-round, and so he believes that the time-split will continue to work for the champion, moving forward.
"I think it can continue to work. First, it worked pretty great this time, right," he began?
"I think Alpha Male has the best team in the world. I am confident that our teaching in Colorado -- from striking, to wrestling to submission grappling -- is the best in the world, but they have the best team. We've got about 10 top guys, Alpha Male has 20-30 world class guys to spar with.
"They have a great team -- the best team, in my opinion -- and I like the split that we had for this camp. I like being able to work with one, two, three, four guys maximum in Colorado at once. That way I can focus my energy on them really well. I can't do that the same way in a large team like Alpha Male. So, the way it works now, I get to really concentrate on TJ when he comes out here so he gets the best instruction, and then he still gets the great sparring he has available at Team Alpha Male. I think this is an ideal set-up, I like it this way."