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Elevation coach responds to Urijah Faber: I'm not 'actively recruiting' Team Alpha Male fighters

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Leister Bowling says he gets paid to coach fighters -- not recruit them.

The Elevation Fight Team head coach told MMA Fighting on Friday that Urijah Faber was incorrect in classifying him as a "recruiter." UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw left Faber's Team Alpha Male this week for Elevation Fight Team to much controversy.

On the Stud Show Radio podcast Thursday night, Faber accused Bowling of trying to steal fighters.

"I come to find out later there's a guy Leister or something like that," Faber said. "He's a recruiter or wrestling coach or something like that who has been talking to Cody [Garbrandt] and trying to get Cody to come out. Basically trying to chicken hawk guys and apparently there's an article where he said something like, 'I had a heart-to-heart with T.J.,' granted, he's worked with him half of one camp - 'and I told him it's about time you do something for yourself. It's about time you do something selfish.'"

Bowling said that is not true. He said he didn't attempt to persuade Dillashaw to leave Alpha Male for Elevation. Dillashaw had done parts of two camps in Denver at Elevation with his striking coach Duane Ludwig, who is in the middle of a nasty feud with Faber. Bowling said he simply told Dillashaw that it was a bad idea to be bouncing back and forth between two gyms in two different states.

"Put everybody's feelings aside and do what's best for you," Bowling said he told Dillashaw. "Honestly, you need to pick one, because as a world champion splitting your time -- 50-50, 60-40, whatever -- going from California to Denver for eight weeks, you're not getting the focus you need as the world champ. If your home base is in Sacramento and having all those monsters to train with every day is what you need to stay at the top, then don't ever come back to Colorado. If I'm in your shoes, I would pick one and do it. I said I would hate to see you not come back to Colorado, but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes. And if you feel like training with Duane and being out here on probably a slightly smaller team with probably a little more focus, if you feel that's what you need, then do that. But you can't just keep going back and forth, because you don't want to hurt somebody's feelings.

"I didn't try to sway him one way or the other and I'm sure T.J. would vouch for that if anybody ever asks him."

Dillashaw said earlier this week on Stud Show Radio that he'll be getting paid to train with Elevation Fight Team at the MusclePharm gym, rather than paying to train. Bowling clarified that Dillashaw will be getting a sponsorship with MusclePharm in correlation with him training in Colorado.

"MusclePharm sponsored fighters since the beginning of time, since MusclePharm started," Bowling said. "Any of our guys that are at the highest levels, there's money available for certain guys. Obviously when you're the champion of the world and you're training out of a supplement company's gym that sponsors UFC fighters, it's pretty natural that you're going to be able to work a deal with them."

A big factor at play is also the ability to work with Ludwig. The former Team Alpha Male coach is not an official coach at the MusclePharm gym, but "several" Elevation fighters train at Ludwig's Colorado gym for striking, Bowling said. Dillashaw and Ludwig will absolutely continue their arrangement with Dillashaw in close proximity.

"They've got something special," said Bowling, who coached Ludwig when Ludwig fought in the UFC. "It's like the Mike Tyson-Cus D'Amato relationship. Those two just click and there's nothing that should ever tear that apart. It's a special coach-athlete relationship."

As far as Faber's accusations that Bowling was also trying to poach Garbrandt, a top UFC prospect, Bowling denies that as well. He said he and Garbrandt have spoken a few times in the past with Garbrandt expressing interest in stopping at the MusclePharm gym after a trip to Donald Cerrone's New Mexico ranch.

Bowling said that Dillashaw and former Alpha Male teammates Joseph Benavidez, Danny Castillo and Lance Palmer have all trained with Elevation in the past. Dillashaw and Castillo did a good amount of their last training camps in Colorado, Bowling said. Those four fighters told Garbrandt there was good training there and that's what led to the dialogue, according to Bowling.

"I told him just like I told everyone: our doors are always open," Bowling said. ... "Have I talked to Cody Garbrandt? Yes. Am I actively recruiting Cody Garbrandt? No."

Bowling said he does understand Faber's apprehension about the current circumstances and admits the situation "sucks," especially for Dillashaw.

"If I was in [Faber's] shoes, I'd feel the same way," Bowling said. "He doesn't know me. The only UFC champion Team Alpha Male has ever had left. From T.J.'s perspective, those are his best friends, man. He always wanted to still be part of the team. But truly, he wants to train with Duane and Duane isn't there anymore."

That, Bowling said, is the main factor here. Bowling said recruiting is not part of his job description and he doesn't get compensated for that.

"I wish I did, though," he joked. "I'd recruit Urijah."

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