TORONTO – Duane Ludwig has long since moved on from his days coaching at Team Alpha Male, but he and the gym still share biographical space. And now that TAM’s founder Urijah Faber is retiring after his fight with Brad Pickett on Dec. 17 in his hometown of Sacramento, the old coach thinks "The California Kid" is making the wise decision to hang up the gloves.
Though they’ve been somewhat contentious in the aftermath of the break-up, Ludwig remains complimentary of Faber’s business savvy, but he thinks the writing has been on the wall for Faber to walk away from competition.
"I think it’s time," Ludwig told MMA Fighting at the UFC 206 open workouts. "He hasn’t really shown much improvement. But it’s not so much that he hasn’t gotten better, it’s more so his mind and his heart is going other directions rather than fighting. I think he’s being smart in doing what he needs to do, and he’s got an excellent business mind. So I think his skill set would be better utilized for the general purpose of martial arts, rather than that direction of that cage."
Ludwig now runs his own gym in the suburban Denver area, Bang Muay Thai. He was in Toronto this past weekend cornering Matt Brown, who fought Donald Cerrone in the co-main event of Saturday night’s pay-per-view.
In 2013, Ludwig was named MMA Coach of the Year with his stable at Team Alpha Male, featuring Faber, Joseph Benavidez, TJ Dillashaw, Chad Mendes and others. Ludwig left TAM to open up his own gym in Colorado in 2014, and some of the fighters have gone with him. Namely former bantamweight champion Dillashaw, which caused a rift between Ludwig and Faber.
Ludwig can relate to walking away from fighting to become part of the overall MMA family in coaching. He fought up until 2012, and after losing three straight — the last coming against Che Mills in September of that year — he decided to segue into coaching full-time.
He thinks that Faber can benefit the game by being more singular to the business of the sport.
"My service to the world now is much more utilized as helping out the martial artists, and just people in general with martial arts, other than me being in the cage performing on the selfish journey I lived," he said. "And I’m a much happier person now, I look at it is giving back, in uplifting and inspiring other people. I’m much happier now.
"And I’m glad I have the skill set in order to do so, and just like Faber, he’s got a good business mind. So hopefully he can use his business in the martial arts world to help enrich people’s lives. We’ll see which way he goes."
Faber has now lost two straight fights since taking on Dominick Cruz for the 135-pound belt at UFC 199 in June. In his most recent out, Faber lost a unanimous decision to Jimmie Rivera at UFC 203 in Cleveland. Overall he has lost three of four bouts. The former WEC featherweight champion was one of the pioneers for the lighter weight classes, having helped the bantamweight and featherweight divisions make headway in the UFC.
His overall UFC record heading into the Pickett fight is 9-6, though he has faced his share of big names in that stretch. At 37 years old and with so many successful business ventures, Ludwig said he thinks Faber is pulling out at the right time.
Asked if he was happy for Faber, Ludwig said it was more about how Faber felt.
"Hopefully he’s happy, then it’s cool," he said. "I’m on my own journey, and he’s on his own journey."