It should have been a given that Duane Ludwig would get quick results. His nickname, after all, is "Bang," a moniker he earned even before his record-setting, six-second knockout in 2006. As a trainer, he's made immediate strides with his new camp, the Sacramento, California-based Team Alpha Male. Hired in December 2012, Ludwig recently went through the process of training several charges for the first full camp, including a trio that prepared for fights at last weekend's UFC on FOX 7.
The result? Three first-round TKOs predicated on strikes.
The success comes as no surprise, according to Ludwig, who in an interview on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, credited Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and T.J. Dillashaw for their dedication and athleticism.
Ludwig said that even before a seminar with the group last year, he realized the talent level, but after seeing how open they were to instruction, the possibility of working together intrigued him even more.
"They were very successful without me, so that with me, all I'm trying to do is helping allow them to reach their full potential of athleticism in the cage," he said. "I’m getting way more credit than deserve. I do deserve some of it. I definitely love the attention they're giving me."
Ludwig said upon close examination of the camp's big names, which also notably includes Urijah Faber, there wasn't a whole lot to fix. There has been, and continues to be, work to tighten up offensive and defensive striking. There are frequent lessons on the sequences of striking, so that specific punches and kicks have more purpose. And there are other things that can't be mentioned in public, so as not to tip off future opponents on their existence.
And make no mistake about it, Ludwig's hiring was very much a nod to the future, and more specifically, next opportunities to win gold. Alpha Male has had wonderful success, but between Faber, Benavidez and Mendes, the camp is a collective 0-for-8 in it last eight major title bouts. In just the last two years alone, they're 0-4 in chasing UFC gold.
With the belief that MMA at the highest levels is won in the details, Ludwig says his job will be to correct the minor mistakes that have cost the team's members in the past. Asked if it will be fair to judge him based upon whether or not Alpha Male does win gold, Ludwig didn't flinch.
"One-hundred percent fair," he said. "That’s the hurdle. That’s the whole thing. Without me being here, these guys would still win fights. Would the way be how they're winning them? I don't know, but that’s the true test, to see if we could get these guys a world title. That's my goal. That's our goal. That's what's happening."
As a fighter, Ludwig never reached the championship level himself, at least in a major promotion, although he did knock out Jens Pulver for the UCC title in 2003, at a time when Pulver was considered among the best lightweights in the world alongside Takanori Gomi and B.J. Penn.
Though Ludwig has not officially retired -- that's a decision he says he may make around September, when an injured knee reaches full health -- he doesn't exactly miss fighting. It was, he says, a rough way to try to make a living. Despite 35 pro fights, he never made big money. In fact, he says, the check from his bout, a TKO loss to Che Mills in Sept. 2012, was only enough to live off of for three months before things started getting scary. It was exactly around that time that the Alpha Male offer came through.
"I’d rather keep this role going," he said. "I really don't have the itch to fight right now. I'm a much happier human being. I put too much pressure on myself as a fighter, so just coaching these guys and reviewing videos and running classes and living through them, I'm much happier. I enjoy my life a lot more than I used, that's for sure, 100 percent."
Although he says the fighter within him will always remain, coaching is something he's always loved, and he's been tutoring fighters since he was 19 years old. That, along with the talent he's mentoring, will make his transition to coaching so easy.
He believes that his top three guys -- Faber, Benavidez and Mendes -- will all be wearing titles upon receiving another title bout, because by then, they will have incorporated a few small tweaks into their games at his behest.
"I’m not here to change anything," he said. "Look how successful they've been. I'm just here to add information, and helping them reach their full potential. Your potential, let's say it's a 100 scale. Right now, with what you're doing, you're using 95 percent of it. I'm here to help the next five percent."