As T.J. Dillashaw placed his hands on his waist at UFC 173, patting the golden belt that hung there as a symbol of ultimate success, Duane "Bang" Ludwig stood just a few feet behind, choking back tears and applauding his pupil.
Ludwig became the head coach of Dillashaw's camp, Team Alpha Male, back in December 2012, and his teachings fell on attentive ears.
The primarily wrestling-based roster developed stand-up skills at an alarming rate under Ludwig, and four fighters—Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and Dillashaw—earned title shots thanks to their rapid improvements.
This is why it was so strange when it was announced in March that the team would be accepting applications for a new head coach and part ways with Ludwig in May.
Now, May is here, and Dillashaw's bantamweight title fight with Renan Barao is over, ending in a fifth-round TKO victory for the Team Alpha Male product.
According to the previous news, this is where Ludwig says goodbye and disappears into the Rocky Mountain sunset.
And on Duane Ludwig's last night as head coach, he and Team Alpha Male win their first UFC title.— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) May 25, 2014
Or maybe not.
A recent interview from Bloody Elbow's Steph Daniels contends that Ludwig will continue to work with Team Alpha Male fighters in the future, most notably Dillashaw and lightweight Danny Castillo.
In the interview, Ludwig says:
Any of the guys from that camp that need me, I'll always be there for them. All of them. It's not like I'm leaving the team, I'm just opening my business out here, like an extension of the team...Obviously I will always make the time for T.J. and Danny and a few others, but my business and family come first right now.
Throughout the rest of the interview, Ludwig repeatedly professes his love for Team Alpha Male and its stable of fighters. It's clear that he does not want to move on completely, that the "split" is really just a break for now.
After Dillashaw's sensational performance against Barao at UFC 173, this is excellent news for the new champ and his teammates. Ludwig clearly changed the perception of Team Alpha Male's fighters, and he developed them into more well-rounded, dangerous combatants.
Despite Ludwig taking some time to start his own gym in Colorado, Team Alpha Male can (and probably will) still benefit from his lessons.
From the sounds of his interview with Daniels, he's very open to maintaining relationships with the fighters and, despite the initial reports, is not planning a total split.
For the new and improved Dillashaw and company, that's a relief, and it's a fact that potentially spells trouble for the rest of the lighter-weight divisions moving forward.