Written by @NickRiznerMMA
Often times, when a argument arises, no single party is fully in the right.
People tend to view themselves in a way that justifies their every move. They are, after all, the ones that made the moves in the first place. So when two powerful forces stand on opposite ends of the same issue, there are going to be arguments. And plenty of accusations.
In order to help make some sense of the issue at hand, allow me to present the case in an organized manner.
Urijah Faber is the founder of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. Throughout the years, he has managed to build a team of top contenders; primarily occupying the lower weight classes of the UFC. In December of 2012, Faber hired a new head coach with the intention of improving the striking prestige of his team members. That man was Duane Ludwig, a veteran of both the UFC and Strikeforce, with a decorated background in kickboxing.
The ensuing result was fantastic.
In the time that Ludwig served as head coach of Team Alpha Male, Urijah Faber went 4-1, including a four fight win streak and three finishes. Chad Mendes went 3-1 with back-to-back first round knockouts. Joseph Benavidez went 4-1 with two knockouts and a submission. And T.J. Dillashaw went 4-1, including a win over Renan Barao for the UFC Bantamweight Champion. With the exception of Dillashaw – who lost a split decision to Raphael Assuncao in a ‘Fight of the Night’ worthy effort – all the losses during this time were to the hands of UFC Champions.
Inside the cage, Team Alpha Male and Duane Ludwig were a match made in heaven. But outside, there seemed to be trouble afoot. In May of 2014, following T.J. Dillashaw’s tremendous upset over Renan Barao, Ludwig decided to leave Sacramento and open up his own gym in Colorado. The move was unexpected, to say the least, but little was made of it. It was presented as a mutual split. No hard feelings.
However, slowly but surely, information began to leak. It seemed that there was some sort of beef between Urijah Faber and Duane Ludwig that led to his departure. The details were vague but the premise was anything but. This was no mutual split. This was the result of something much more complicated. Nearly a year and a half later, both parties are coming clean. Both men are telling their side of the story; a recanting of a troubled past. Now that the smoke is finally beginning to clear, one question remains.
Who do you believe?
Urijah Faber has, for the most part, remained silent on this issue. While periodic revelations have led many a journalist to his door, Faber has dodged and deflected the questions in a manner that resembles his in-cage performances. But even for a man that has spent his career preaching the virtues of happiness and positivity, one can only be pushed so far before lashing out. That breaking point came on September 18th, when Duane Ludwig called into the Deep Waters Podcast to ‘apologize’ to Faber.
In reality, the apology was more of a list of things that Faber was at fault for, followed by a dismissive, “I apologize for whatever I did wrong.” Nevertheless, this was the straw that broke the camels back, causing Urijah Faber to give an hour and a half tell-all on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani.
During this interview, Faber painted a picture of bullying, manipulation, and deception. Told through a series of anecdotes, a checkered history of behavior was revealed. According to Faber, Ludwig would exclude and insult African Americans in a manner that was presented in jest, but seemed to carry threatening undertones. Specific examples included Ludwig ordering “all the black guys, at the end of the line” or “all black guys, twenty five feet from the females.”
Faber went on to describe Ludwig’s habit of encouraging lesser fighters to quit and refusing to work with the female athletes. He told a story of a UFC executive who felt threatened by Duane’s demeanor and of managers that Duane “struck a little fear into.” Both issues involved money, with Faber claiming that Ludwig would consistently shake people down to make some extra cash.
If true, this is some pretty heavy stuff. If true.
Duane Ludwig’s issues seemed to revolve around finances. According to Ludwig, the accusations of racism were exaggerated, if not completely fabricated. In speaking with MMA Fighting following Faber’s appearance on The MMA Hour, Duane described the atmosphere at the gym as a humorous one, claiming that no one was made to feel uncomfortable due to their race. He did, however, acknowledge a level of discomfort with training women, claiming that he feels “uneasy seeing a woman get punched in the face.”
Concerning Faber’s claims of a “shake down,” Ludwig insisted that this was the byproduct of a miscommunication. Whenever the two parties talked about business deals, Duane was left thinking one thing, when the reality was something entirely different. Whether this was a misunderstanding or a blatant misdirection is unclear, but Ludwig seemed to be convinced that the details of their financial arrangement were not spelled out properly.
In fact, Ludwig believes there was a disconnect from the beginning. The inital hiring process began on the phone and by the time the specifics got put on paper, Duane was confused by what he saw. Allegedly, there were three separate instances in which the verbal agreements and written agreements did not match up.
Ultimately, it was a mismatch of expectations and reality. In his interview with FOX Sports, Ludwig summed things up as follows.
“The reality is that he was offering me a job, and he fell short of what he offered.”
“I think I went above and beyond with what I needed to do and he fell short in multiple areas.”
As far as why Faber would falsify so many aspects of the situation, Ludwig suggested a combination of factors. Perhaps Conor McGregor was getting under his skin during the filming of The Ultimate Fighter. Faber’s motivations may have been misguided aggression towards McGregor, taken out on his former coach. Ludwig also presented the possibility that Faber is a bit “punchy,” claiming that he is an old fighter that has been hit in the head quite a bit throughout his career.
Now it’s time to answer the question. Faber? Ludwig? A Combination of both?
One thing is clear, above all else. This is an unwelcome distraction for all the fighters at Team Alpha Male. This issue threatens to tear the gym in half, splitting up one of the most close-knit teams in MMA. Can these two bury the hatchet before we get to that point? It seems like a pipe dream at the moment.
Alas, as with all things, we shall see.