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duane-ludwig-5.jpgThe more comfortable Duane “Bang” Ludwig gets with his head-coaching duties at Team Alpha Male, the more unlikely he is to make his own return to the cage.

The 34-year-old UFC vet, who recently took over as head instructor for the fast-rising California squad, hasn’t officially decided on retirement, but he said he’s close.

“I’m not retired, not officially yet,” he told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “But it’s leaning toward that direction.”

“Bang” accepted the Team Alpha Male gig in December, a few months after he blew out his knee in an eventual loss to Che Mills at UFC on FUEL TV 5. It marked his third straight defeat, though his fights camps had been plagued by injuries that hindered his preparation.

Although he misses fighting, Ludwig has found plenty of satisfaction in contributing to the careers of Team Alpha Male fighters such as Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez, Danny Castillo, T.J. Dillashaw and other top-level lighter-weight competitors. They’ve all made a special point of thanking Ludwig after their recent wins.

“It’s going good for sure,” Ludwig said. “I definitely like the results we’ve been getting. I like how openminded that the athletes are to me. They’re taking my advice and thoughts to heart and running with it. I appreciate that. The respect is mutual. They’re putting their lives in my hands basically, so I need to make the information I’m giving them is true to my heart and I’m not f—ing them over. I take it very seriously.”

Ludwig was actually considering another coaching job – in Las Vegas at Throwdown Training Center (now Syndicate MMA) – when Faber gave him a call. Faber had called upon Ludwig for advice in past fights, and when the “California Kid” and gym owner wanted to bring in a full-time instructor, the two made a plan. Ludwig hosted a seminar at the Sacramento gym, largely so Ludwig’s wife could get a sense of the city and what it would be like to live there.

After deciding Sacramento offered as much to do for their kids as their Colorado home did, Ludwig accepted the job. He underwent knee surgery, and a few weeks later, he packed a U-Haul and made the move to Sacramento. He hasn’t regretted it for a day.

“I’m born for this s—, teaching guys, for sure,” he said.

As for his own career, Ludwig (21-14 MMA, 4-5 UFC) said he’d like rematches with Dan Hardy, Josh Neer and even Takanori Gomi, whom he lost to at a 2008 World Victory Road/Sengoku event. But he said he’s been heavier than 200 pounds for a few months now, and the possibility of returning to lightweight or even welterweight would be challenge. Additionally, injuries remain an issue, and he’s not sure his body could hold up in a fight camp.

“It’d be good to go off with a win in general … but for me to get through a training camp is hard due to injuries,” he said.

So for now, he’s focused on his stable of Team Alpha Male fighters. The team has excelled so far in 2013, though the camp has yet to produce a UFC champion following failed bids by bantamweight Faber, featherweight Mendes and flyweight Benavidez. The latter two, though, could soon change that, and they remain in the thick of their division’s title picture.

Ludwig’s prediction?

“Chad Mendes will be our first world champion, and then Joseph Benavidez,” he said.

For the latest on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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