Ludwig, who continues to coach UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, ignited a minor furor in July when he said that Dillashaw was the only one on the Sacramento-based squad "who actually wants to be champion." Ludwig ultimately apologized for his comments, but still reiterated that there was something different about Dillashaw from the rest of Team Alpha Male, and the only thing separating Mendes from his dreams of gold is three simple points to his game that Ludwig could fix.
"I don't know what the hell Duane is talking about," Mendes said Tuesday on The MMA Hour. "I'm tired of hearing about Duane and him ruling our team. Duane came here to Team Alpha Male for a short amount of time, and Duane did what he did, but I'd say 95-percent of our wins when he was here we would've won anyway.
"Duane was the type of guy who brought a new style to our team, but we have such a unique team, everybody is such high-level athletes that anybody can come to this team with a new style, and we're going to pick it up, we're going to learn it and we're going to use it in fights. So we made Duane. We put Duane on the map. Before that, Duane was a fighter who fought in the UFC who most people didn't even know about."
Ludwig joined Team Alpha Male in late 2012 and received widespread acclaim for his work with the squad, even winning Coach of the Year honors at the 2013 World MMA Awards. The team experienced a memorable run of success under his leadership, one which culminated in its first ever UFC championship when Dillashaw upset Renan Barao to claim the bantamweight title.
Tensions between Ludwig and team leader Urijah Faber eventually led to Ludwig's departure in mid-2014, and while he left on largely good terms with a majority of the team, that relationship has taken a hit over the past few months.
"When he got the offer, he basically said it's like coming to a garage full of Ferraris and Lamborghinis," Mendes said. "He's going to fine tune some things and those cars are going to run like hell. That's basically how it was. Duane had a new system that we hadn't seen yet and that's why things were so fun and everyone got along. Then some crazy, weird s**t happened between him and Faber, and Duane started attacking all of us in the media.
"It just sucks. It's something that really bummed me out because I liked Duane a lot, and I felt like him as a person, him as a coach, it was good until all of this stuff started happening, and then him taking digs at all of us. It's just something that I'm sick of and I want out of my life. Duane's not a part of Team Alpha Male. This is a team that I'm going to be a part of until I'm completely done fighting and probably after I'm done fighting. This is where I started, this is where I'm going to end, this is what's made me who I am today as a fighter, and I owe everything to Team Alpha Male.
"Duane was a small, tiny, little part of that, and I just hate that so many people are assuming that Duane completely made our team. I'm just tired of hearing it."
Mendes suffered a short notice loss to Conor McGregor in his most recent outing at UFC 189, pushing his record in UFC title bouts to 0-3. Ludwig said previously that he believes Mendes would've won the fight had he been "in shape" or training with him, adding that the only thing separating Mendes and fellow Team Alpha Male contender Joseph Benavidez from accomplishing what Dillashaw has done is "a little more focus and desire."
Mendes, not surprisingly, took exception to those comments, but noted that the team has made a point of talking things out among themselves, rather than letting their back-and-forth with Ludwig start any in-fighting in the halls of Team Alpha Male.
"I don't think it's getting weird," Mendes said. "I know T.J. is going to train with him probably forever, there's guys like Danny (Castillo) who are going to train with him. There's certain guys who just like working out with him. I'm not one of those guys. I like my system here. Like I said, Team Alpha Male and what we've done here is what's made me a fighter, and Duane's training was just a tiny, little part of that.
"For him to say that if I would've worked with him, I'd be champion? That, to me, is a dig at me. That's disrespectful and I don't think that's true. I did work with him. I'm not a champion. For him, his three things, I don't know what the hell he's talking about, and like I said, to me it's disrespectful, and I'm just tired of hearing about it."
MMA Hour: Duane Ludwig discusses his relationship with Team Alpha Male