Nearly two years after the acrimonious split between team and coach, and incensed by allegations of fiscal exploitation that Ludwig lobbed last week in an interview with FOX Sports, Faber appeared Monday on The MMA Hour to reveal his side of the story. Over the course of an almost hour-and-a-half long interview, the Team Alpha Male founder and captain accused Ludwig of emotional instability, physical bullying of several individuals including a UFC executive, and more.
More Coverage: Duane Ludwig responds to Urijah Faber
Excerpts from Faber's heated portrayal of Ludwig's tenure with the Sacramento-based squad can be read below.
Faber: "You want to talk specifics? I've been trying to take the higher road with this guy who's been trying to break the team down, but I can talk about specifics. Dysfunction follows the guy, and the guy is a bully. And it's unfortunate, man. I really tried to help this guy out. ... But just the blatant, crazy ex-girlfriend mentality of trying to break the team down is just bizarre to me. I don't get it.
"So right off the bat (after initially looking to hire Duane), I go to a GLORY fight in Las Vegas, and one of the guys who trains out with Duane in Colorado is like, ‘hey man, I just want to warn you, Duane is gangster about money.' And I was like, what do you mean? He said, ‘I'm just telling you, he'll fight people over money. He gets really weird about money.' And I'm thinking, I've had never an issue with anybody about money anyways, so not a big deal, whatever.
"Oh my gosh, is that foreshadowing. Unbelievable.
"So [Ludwig] comes out and does two days with us. We start talking on the phone. I said, ‘look, this is what we can offer.' This is the year where I fought once in 13 months, and I was the top breadwinner for this team at that point. I fought one time in 13 months, and as far as money raised from contributions to the team, it was far below what we were going to offer him as a coach. I said, ‘you know, we had a bad year this last year, Joseph (Benavidez) sat out and had that one fight, Chad (Mendes) had the one title fight, I had my title fight and I only got to fight once. Judging on that, this is what we'll be able to afford paying you,' which was a good salary, especially for a guy who had no money coming in and was in a hard spot.
"I said, ‘we could do something where it's this salary or five-percent of purses, whichever is larger.' I talked to all the guys and no one was willing to give up their discretionary bonuses, except for me, which turned out to be a huge problem because discretionary bonuses, no one knows you get them. They come discretionary, right? So then I said, ‘you know Duane, because I funded this team anyways and I always contribute more, because it's my team, I will contribute my discretionary bonuses, because sometimes they're large, to make sure that we meet that salary so we get to that point where we have enough, and also when the five-percent gets bigger, then you can have that.' He's like, 'okay, okay.' I put all of this in writing. Salaries and everything else.
"Seriously, like two days later, Duane calls me and wants more money.
"We were at a point were I said, ‘dude, this is what we can afford. If you can't do it, you can't do it.' He's like, okay, that's fine. So he comes, and I told him, ‘look dude, listen, this is what I plan on doing. I'm going to blow your name up. I'm going to make a huge deal about this thing, we're going to reach all the media, I'm going to do a press release, we're going to build you as this hero, get you on interviews.' I said, ‘when that starts happening, you're going to get opportunities and you can get your own sponsors, you can do seminars. I think really building your brand, this'll be good for it. You said you have your affiliate program, you'll blow that up.' He's getting all excited about it. So the guy comes out and starts teaching classes, and he's doing a great job.
"He's getting his salary, then he starts charging everybody for privates. And there's a point where T.J. (Dillashaw) is like, ‘man, I don't know what to do. Duane is bleeding me. I'm doing his videos for him after class, I'm doing this, and he's still charging me for privates. I need to have a talk with him.' T.J. has a talk with him. He's charging everyone, and I feel bad for [Ludwig]. He's selling peanut butter at the front desk, he's doing all these things to make extra cash, he's leaving every single weekend to go do a seminar, even if it's for a couple hundred bucks. I'm like dude, I appreciate the hustle, but let's just settle down. Let's let the apple grow into a ripe, red apple before you start trying to pull it off the tree when it's green and sour. Give it some time.
"So then it comes to my first fight that he corners me. I have my partner Scott who's in Texas who owns Torque, and so Duane wants to wear his own shirt in my corner with a conflicting brand, Fear the Fighter, instead of Torque. ... I said, ‘Duane, dude, my partner is going to be pissed off. Like, you didn't okay this with him if you wear another brand. No one talked to him, he's going to be pissed. Can you wear like a Duane Bang shirt or one of the other sponsors or something like that?' This is 30 minutes before I'm about to go fight my fight. I said, ‘here dude, here's this phone number. If you can call and get the okay from him' -- granted, this is 30 minutes before I'm about to go out and fight, and this is the first time having him in the corner -- ‘if you can talk to my partner and get him to okay wearing the shirt, then you're good.'
"Apparently, I didn't find this out until afterward, he tries to shake down my partner for $300. He's trying to get my guy to pay him $300 to wear my shirt, this and that. I didn't know until way later when my partner told me, and it just baffled me.
"This is where the animosity starts. When he came back here, he said, ‘you know, Urijah, you told me you when I got here you were going to get me sponsors.' And I had to go over this with him four times the year he was there. I never said I was going to get him sponsors. I told him, ‘dude, I said you could get your own sponsors. I never told you I had sponsors ready for you.' None of our guys had residual sponsors going at the time. It was a hard time, especially in the sport. I had no idea that he even thought I was supposed to get him sponsors.
"This is where all the animosity from him comes from, is that he wasn't able to wear his shirt in that corner the very first time. I said, ‘we can do it. We just have to okay it beforehand, not 30 minutes prior. You can wear anything else you want, we just have to okay things. Like, if the UFC doesn't want you to wear something, you can't wear it either. There's a process to go through, etc.'
"It becomes a thing where he's my coach, I'm kind of his boss, I'm trying to be a counselor for the guy because he's upset about all these other things. He's misinterpreting things, saying that I was supposed to get him a bunch of sponsors. Like, what does that even mean? Like I can just up and make sponsors out of the blue? So this is where there starting to be a little bit of a disconnect, but it still was fine. We're still working together, etc. Just on occasion, these things would come up.
"I had a girl from Alaska who said that Duane keeps on saying these comments. And first off, Duane refused to work with any females. He said, ‘I just want to tell you, I'm not supportive of women's MMA. I won't be working with anybody, I won't be working with Paige (VanZant), I'm not going to be working with Nicky, I'm not going to work with Veronica. I don't believe in it.' Okay. That was an issue.
"The second thing was, he was saying racial things. And that's what I'm saying when I say, things aren't jokes just because you laughed at them, especially if they're hurtful. So I had two of the African-American guys on our team who approached me and said, ‘this is getting real uncomfortable. It's funny one time, I guess, when he says stuff like, all the black guys at the end of the line. But he's saying it every single day.' Then one guy says, ‘every single time I'm in the gym and I'm talking to a girl, Duane yells across the gym, hey, so-and-so, all black guys 25 feet away from the females.' He says, ‘I get it, he thinks it's funny, whatever. But he keeps doing it and it's really getting on my nerves.'
"So I had to talk Duane about that. I had to talk to him about the girls. I had to talk to him about not breaking people down. One girl from Alaska said that Duane keeps saying, ‘you're pretty terrible and you should just quit.' She goes, ‘he starts laughing like he's joking but I know he's serious.' She wasn't the best girl on the team, and it was mean is what it was. So I had to talk to him about that.
"On top of that, I had my managers who Duane basically struck a little fear into. One time, my one manager was talking and Duane told him to ‘shut the f--- up when he's talking.' It got real awkward and silent, and my manager says, ‘no one talks to me like that.' So Duane says something like, ‘when I'm speaking, don't speak.' That kind of thing. I had to talk to him about that.
"Then there's my other manager where, Duane would only show up for the day of the fight. He wouldn't show up for the week prior because he was doing seminars or didn't want to lose money or whatever. So until it was time for him to leave (Team Alpha Male), then he started showing up for the week to do all the media. (Before that) he would only show up the day of the fight. So he wouldn't go and help prep, do the weight cut, or anything like that. He'd go the day of the fight.
"So he shows up the day of the fight and we've all been there, and he has no affiliation with my managers. ... They don't have any obligation to him whatsoever. So he gets to the venue on the day of the fight and doesn't have his room set up, which is not my managers' job to get his room set up. And he sees my manager in the hallway, and basically makes my manager very uncomfortable. I get a call from him saying, ‘I don't know what Duane is doing. He's a loose cannon. He got in my face because he didn't have a room. That's not my obligation, but he's a scary guy and I'm not a fighter. I'm not trying to fight the guy.'
"So I talked to Duane again. Duane says, ‘oh, I was just joking.' It's not a joke just because you think it's funny.
"So the last one was a UFC executive. So this guy was an instrumental guy in my career, someone who really helped me out. He's been a big part of the UFC and is just a good guy all-around. And Duane wanted some tickets from the guy. So he asked if he could hook him up with some tickets because he had two friends coming into town. And we later find out that the guy actually went through and tried to do it, but it didn't go through. You know, they get yay'ed or nay'ed for tickets.
"Duane sees him in the hallway. The guy is with his wife, and [Duane] gets close to him and starts saying stuff about the tickets. Then he puts his hands on the guy. And the guy trains MMA, he's not a scared guy, and he basically sticks up for himself. He's in front of his wife, etc. Then he calls me distraught, saying, ‘I'm just going to let you know, if I report this, Duane will not be allowed to coach anymore. There's a real strict rule about people touching executives, and he got in my face and was trying to punk me because of some tickets, and I don't even know why. I did try to get him his tickets. I didn't even know they didn't go through.'
"So I had to take Duane aside and I had to say, ‘Duane, you're on the verge of being kicked out as a coach. You can't be bullying people because you want things. If you want something and someone can't do it, it's not your opportunity to go and intimidate them.'
"This [UFC executive], I actually talked him out of turning Duane in, and talked to Duane, and Duane went and apologized to the guy. But that kind of thing right there, Duane again says he was joking. It's not a joke if you're intimidating people and making people feel uncomfortable and saying racial things, etc.
"It's a telling thing that the one year Duane was there was the only time we haven't had a team banquet, which has been a tradition for five years. It's the one time, because Duane had changed the contract and ended up getting paid almost double what we agreed to, because he started crying and talking about how he struggled his whole life and he's not going to be struggling now, and begging the guys to give him more, and using me as an example of somebody who has paid more, me giving my discretionary bonuses to the pot. Like, is this an act? So this is the first year where we're getting all of our money taken by Duane, he's selling peanut butter and his t-shirts and everything else at the front desk, he's charging people for privates, he's manipulating people into giving their discretionary bonuses, guys like Chris Holdsworth who are struggling, just barely making their way as a brand new guy in the sport. He's giving them guilt trips about giving him their discretionary bonuses, and he's mooching money like a leech, man. It's unbelievable.
"So there's two tipping points. There's one tipping point, which is when I realize that Duane is only in this for himself and he's not going to be part of the team. And then the second one, when I decided to talk about it right now. ... A week before I left for the Philippines for a media tour, there's five fights I had in 13 months. Three submissions, one decision, and then one loss to Barao for the second time we fought. During that time, I had to renegotiate a contract and got bumped up considerably. So two of those fights, I didn't get a discretionary bonus.
"So Duane, in his mind, starts getting this delusion that I'm lying to him about some discretionary bonuses. ... The week before I left, Duane brings me in. And he used to always ask me for business advice, like when I told him to stop promoting that he smokes weed for his coaching abilities and to stop getting $250 to wear somebody's T-shirt instead of building his own brand. So he comes in, and I already had a couple issues with him because now he was gaining some real notoriety, he was gone during the week. Now that he was getting a percentage of purses, he wasn't working with anybody that didn't have a big purse, so he would only work with me and T.J., and a couple of the other guys, on top of not working with the girls, etc. And he was getting some sponsors at this point, and basically pimping people out.
"So there's three different issues. So he brings me in ... and this the week before the split happened, and Chad was supposed to fight Jose Aldo at the time for the title, and Aldo got injured so they had to push it back. So he comes in and he says, ‘I wanted to ask you about flipping houses.' ... We start talking and then he cuts me off, and he says, ‘I think you're f---ing lying to me!' He goes, ‘I know you got bonuses! I know you got bonuses and you're lying to me. I've got bonuses for every single fight.' It totally takes me off guard and I'm like, ‘whoa, what's going on here, man?' He's like, ‘I know you're lying to me! I know you have bonuses!' This guy has an unstable upbringing, which we talked about, and I've tried to help him understand some things, and he's been a fighter for years. All these different things, he's basically conjured up in his head.
"You can ask Dana, Lorenzo, the guys, whoever cuts the check. There's two fights I didn't get bonuses for during that five-fight year. So I call my manager with him there. Didn't tell him that Duane was in the room or anything, and I say, ‘hey, did I get any discretionary bonuses for the last two fights?' He's like, ‘no.' And I go, ‘okay, thanks, just checking.' Hang up. Duane's like, ‘I think you're lying to me! I've gotten a bonus for every single fight I've ever had!'
"So he leaves to do a private. I have to leave the next day at three o'clock to go to Dubai and Australia. When I come back, I hear grumbles that Duane is opening his own gym. So he's gone. At this point, he's been gone. He's getting paid his salary and percentages, and he's gone all the time now doing seminars. He's leaving during the week and he's having people fill in. He's not coaching the team anymore. He's only picking the fruit that has finally blossomed, right? We've been building up his name, the team has been winning, all of this stuff, so he's doing seminars, doing appearances for his sponsors, all during the week when we need a coach.
"So I wanted to talk to him about not bullying people, the things he's been saying the African-American guys that are making them uncomfortable, about getting himself sponsors then making other people wear them -- basically pimping them out, then taking the money -- and then being there during the week. When you're supposed to be getting paid to be there during the week, don't be going to seminars for a week at a time in this place and that place when we need to be coached. But then I hear through the grapevine that he's opening his own gym, and I don't know whether he's doing it in Sacramento or what.
"So we go in and meet, and throughout our relationship it's been really weird. I told you, I played counselor to the guy, I feel like the guy cried to me all the time. He cried when he was sad. He cried when he was happy. He talked about something and he started crying. And it was kind of a strange thing, so I come in and we have this meeting. ... He immediately starts crying. He says, ‘yes, I'm leaving. I'm opening my own gym.' He goes, ‘I knew I was going to do this the moment you didn't get me sponsors.' That was like three months into our relationship, and I'm like, ‘what? Duane, I never told you I was going to get you a bunch of sponsors.'
"He's crying at this point. I said, ‘when were you going to tell me this? Were you going to tell me that you were going to leave us?' He didn't know how much I knew, so he starts fessing up about stuff. ... It'd been six months since he tried to do his first gym and not told me about it. We've got Chad up here who's about to fight for a world title. It makes sense that he's leaving all the time, he's only showing up the day of the fight, doing a seminar on the day and only showing up at the arena. He's doing all the media he can to promote his own business, and basically I'm sitting there going, ‘dude, were you going to even tell me? Give us a heads up or anything?' He's like, ‘well, I wanted to get a title under my belt first, and then leave.'
"I never put any of this in the faces of the guys, because I don't want to mess with their mentality. I never put it in anybody's face because I'm just trying to keep things cordial on the team, but this is the point where we have to split. And I'm still keeping it all under wraps and not saying any of the problems that have happened, etc., and going around continuing to let Duane be a coach on the team and take credit for things.
"Then a year-and-a-half later, a week before I'm about to fight Frankie Edgar -- Duane had been slowly trying to break the team apart ... and I get a freaking letter from a lawyer whose email was like ‘asiankickboxer101,' and it's the most delusional claim basically saying he's going to sue the gym. Duane says he's going to sue our team on this: ‘I was offered a contract which I did not sign, but I did my obligations and helped the team grow, and in turn I grew as well. But I am going to ask that there was $100,000 in discretionary bonuses' -- which is a figment of his imagination, which is hilarious -- ‘that is owed to [me].'
"He feels like he is entitled to that contract, a contract which he changed because three months in we agreed to pay him more. If he wanted to enforce that contract, he would owe me probably $40,000 because he was overpaid according to that contract! On top of that, he demands five-percent, because that's what was in the contract, of discretionary bonuses which didn't exist, and he calculates that to be $25,000.
"So I'm like, are you kidding me? This is a year after he's been gone and I still haven't put him on blast for being a tyrant and a bully and everything else that he has been. Unbelievable. So obviously my lawyer just sent a message that said, ‘we have declined your request. If you have any questions, please call.' And I hadn't heard anything from him, until a week ago when he puts out his fake apology where he says that I had done him wrong on the business side, which is complete bull. And the only reason he did that, this is the only time I've heard him other than a lawyer's letter, was because one of the guys called him and said, ‘dude, you're trying to ruin our team, I don't want to work with you anymore.' That's why he's [come to the media]. So here we are. That's the real story."