Curtis Blaydes is one of the fastest-rising contenders in the UFC heavyweight division, and Duane Ludwig has played a definite role in the wrestling specialist’s emergence as such.
Though Ludwig doesn’t actually work with Blaydes on a full-time basis, he was still happy to heap praise on him.
“I don’t work with him as much as I work with TJ [Dillashaw],” Ludwig said on the latest episode of BJ Penn Radio. “His main coach is Vinny Lopez from Vital Strength and Fitness, I think it is. He trains at high altitude as well. He comes to my morning classes a couple times a week. So he’s not one of my religious pupils, I would say. But when he is in here, you know, he’s like any Top-10, Top-five, world class athlete. He just picks everything up right away. He’s a good student, real humble guy. I love having the guy here.”
Blaydes’ next challenge will occur at UFC 225, when he battles form Strikeforce, Dream and K-1 heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem. While Overeem’s striking skill could spell disaster for Blaydes, Ludwig feels his pupil has the ability to win – and the power to win by stoppage.
“I love Overeem, but I don’t think it’s a great matchup for Overeem,” he said. “I think Curtis is going to beat Overeem, and he has the power to stop him. He definitely has the wrestling to beat him. We all know that.”
While Ludwig doesn’t serve as Blaydes’s main coach, he will be helping the heavyweight prepare for this momentous challenge, just as he’s done in the past.
“When he comes in [I say] ‘What do you want to work on? Hunt is good at this, Overeem is good at this. Let’s make sure we do this and this.'”
Interestingly, Ludwig added that one feature of his Bang Muay Thai system is inspired by Overeem, so there’s a chance Blaydes could defeat Overeem with an maneuver that is actually named after him.
“We actually have a good chunk of our system that’s called ‘The Reem’ – to cross-Reem, to hook-Reem,” Ludwig explained. “‘Reem’ is an actual audio command in our system. So it’s kind of ironic and funny that Curtis is fighting him and he may do an actual Reem on Overeem.”
Though Curtis Blaydes’s victory against a fighter of Alistair Overeem’s caliber is certainly not guaranteed, Ludwig said the rising heavyweight has been an absolute sponge thus far, and he expects him to continue evolving quickly as a result.
“He’s a world-class athlete… he’s a coordinated human being that’s very athletic, so whatever you show him he picks it up pretty quick,” he said. “He always making gains and the more he is in there the better he’ll become. I can’t say training with me is going to provide success for sure, but it’s definitely not going to hurt, I’ll say that.”
How do you think Curtis Blaydes will perform against Alistair Overeem at UFC 225?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 3/22/2018.