When the newest addition to the Ludwig family, Duane Jr., grows up, you can expect that one of the key lessons his dad, UFC welterweight Duane Sr., will teach him will have nothing to do with roundhouse kicks or right crosses, but about respecting his elders.
It won’t be mere talk from the ten year MMA vet, who was in Germany preparing for his Saturday bout against Nick Osipczak when his wife gave birth to their second child Tuesday. Instead, it will be something that he lives every day, that despite all his success, he still looks back to his fighting mentors and what they gave him in competition and in life.
For Ludwig, the first teacher to make a significant impact on him didn’t show up during the school day, but after high school classes had ended and the fight-loving 15-year old soon to be known as “Bang” made his way to James Tigrett’s gym to learn the finer parts of Muay Thai.
“He was intense,” said Ludwig of his late trainer, who he once compared to the fictitious John Kreese, the hard-nosed Cobra Kai sensei played by Martin Kove in the Karate Kid. “You had to make things perfect, and training was two hour sessions during the week, a three hour session on the weekend and it was a lot of repetition and grind.”
Not the typical afterschool activity for a teenager, but as Ludwig – a fan of Rocky and Bruce Lee movies – explains, “that was how my brain was wired. It was cool and I just accepted it. I didn’t know any better. It was just how life was and this was what you do. From the get go I wanted to be serious about it, I met the right guy, and we clicked and everything was cool.”
And he learned his craft in the process.
“I’m thankful that I crossed paths with him because he was such a great help,” said Ludwig of Tigrett. “I was with him for two years, and a lot of people rush things but he didn’t allow me to rush it. I spent a lot of time on technique and execution, and because of him, I definitely built a good foundation.”
That foundation has carried him through 43 kickboxing wins and 27 MMA victories. But to take his game to the next level, he needed more than just fundamentals, and that’s where former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten came in.
“I love Bas and he’s definitely helped me out a lot,” said Ludwig. “He knows how my brain works when it comes to the fighting aspect and he’s definitely helped me out a lot. Any combination he shows me clicked for me. He knows exactly what works for me and what doesn’t, so when we train, it’s just great, and if he weren’t so busy, I would train with him more.”
These days, the 32-year old Denver native remains in good hands with striking guru Trevor Wittman, and it’s Wittman who will spearhead Ludwig’s comeback, not only to the welterweight division after two UFC fights at 155 pounds, but from a severe ankle fracture suffered in a freak fall in his March bout against Darren Elkins. It was the kind of injury that could have made a fighter rethink his future in the Octagon, but not Ludwig.
“I’m pretty determined and set in my ways in some aspects so I knew I’d make a return and that that wouldn’t be the end of it,” he said. “I just had to get past it and focus on the positives and focus on what I can do and not on what I can’t do.”
As soon as he was cleared to work out again, he was back to the gym, and luckily this time, as he prepares for Osipczak, he won’t have an extra worry in the form of a crushing weight cut to the lightweight limit.
“”I’ve been walking in the low 90’s, 95, for the last year and a half, two years, so I should have made the jump to 170 a while ago,” he said. “I’ve just been stubborn. But it feels good and now I’m actually able to focus on my training and get better in the wrestling, the jiu-jitsu and the striking, and not just focus my workouts on calorie burn or weight loss. Things are much better for sure.”
Ludwig also has the added benefit of fighting an opponent in England’s Osipczak that has been looking for a matchup against a striker so he can show off his own hands and feet. Then again, when dealing with someone of Ludwig’s caliber, you have to be careful what you wish for.
“We’ll see when the fight comes, but stylistically it’s the better matchup for him than it has been in his past matchups, even though he’s done well in those,” said Ludwig of the Ultimate Fighter 9 veteran. “I think I’m a little better in the striking, but he’s good as well so I’ve got to be careful, stick to the gameplan, and execute what I need to do and not worry about him too much.”
And once “Bang” lands once of his punches or kicks, will it be a quick dive for the ankles from Osipczak?
“It could be,” said Ludwig. “We’ll see what positions I put him in and how he reacts to me. Not to be boastful, but I’m one of the best strikers because I’ve been doing it for so long and this is what I do; but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be beat. I’ve got to be smart, and we’ll see what happens when I crack him.”
If Ludwig lands clean, a KO victory usually is the result, and previous victims Sam Morgan, Tony Fryklund, Jonathan Goulet, and Jens Pulver will certainly agree. But that’s not the be all, end all for the new dad. These days, it’s about having fun and in the long run, making his mentors proud.
“I just want to train, get better, and go out there and fight,” he said. I love fighting, I love training, I love the lifestyle I have right now, and it’s just what I do, so I want to keep it going as long as I can.”
Duane Ludwig - Respecting His Roots
“I just want to train, get better, and go out there and fight. I love fighting, I love training, I love the lifestyle I have right now, and it’s just what I do, so I want to keep it going as long as I can.”