There was one award this year that involved no debate from our staff, Trainer of the Year. Why, you might ask?

Simply put, the fighters at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calif., have learned how to “bang.”

Late in 2012, veteran UFC and K-1 fighter Duane “Bang” Ludwig transitioned from his home in Denver to the northern California gym. The veteran striker’s presence was evident nearly every time one of the gym’s fighters stepped into the cage in 2013. It took until September before one of the team’s stable lost inside the UFC’s Octagon, with the team having reeled off 13 straight wins before that.

That success, in large part, was due to the addition of Ludwig. Instead of a team of former NCAA Division I wrestlers, Ludwig turned veteran fighters like Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez into wrecking machines and helped refine the evolving skill sets of Chad Mendes, T.J. Dillashaw and Lance Palmer.

And if you speak with one of those fighters, you’ll quickly learn that Ludwig did more for the gym than teach them how to throw punches and kicks. The 35-year-old brought a sense of professionalism and structure that the team needed.

Although the team has yet to reach its goal of holding UFC gold, the addition of Ludwig has put them on the doorstep. Benavidez fell short against Demetrious Johnson in December, but his teammates, Faber and Mendes, are in prime position to challenge for titles in 2014 at bantamweight and featherweight, respectively. Additionally, both Justin Buchholz and the aforementioned Palmer have picked up championships on the regional circuit under Ludwig’s guidance.

It’s impossible to predict if 2014 will be the year that the gym gets off the schneid and captures a UFC title, but given the success that Ludwig has brought the team in just one year’s time, don’t be surprised if the Colorado native is again being mentioned for this award next year.

Honorable Mention: Andre Pederneiras, Greg Jackson
The MMA Corner’s 2013 Awards were selected by our staff of writers and photographers. Unless noted otherwise, the nominations were open to all fighters, promotions and events that took place during 2013.