My Trip to the Capcom Crown by Du "NuckleDu" Dang

January 18 2017
We all watched as Liquid`NuckleDu became the Street Fighter V world champion. And as great as the stream was, somebody else had the best seat in the house. We caught up with the champ and asked him to describe his trip to the throne.

Going in to Capcom Cup 2016, it seemed that people had more confidence in me than I did in myself. Now, I don't mean to say that I lacked confidence; it's just that people were positioning me as a big favorite.

Listening to social media can be dangerous, so I stayed away from the hype. I didn't want to go in with too much confidence.

By the time I arrived in California, I was happy with my preparation. The one thing that was stressing me out though was the need to get a proper night's sleep. I can never really sleep well before a tournament and this was the biggest of them all. The plan was to take Melatonin the night before.

Turns out the plan backfired somewhat. Having never used it before, the side-effects really hit me in the morning.

It took tonnes of water and some jumping jacks, but I got through the drowsiness and was ready to go.

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I'm not sure how the fans imagine backstage at a major tournament, but it's pretty tense. There was some eye contact and short smiles between the players but everyone looked focused. This was the world finals after all.

The room itself was on the small side. There were warm-up stations set up but you couldn't really practice much. All your opponents could pretty easily see what you were up to. Outside of basic combos, most of the preparation back stage was mental.

The Japanese players were practicing together and talking strategies. Everyone else kept to themselves. I was the same, just sitting alone and preparing mentally for my upcoming matches.

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Before I even took to the stage there was already a big upset. Infiltration lost to Humanbomb in what was seen as a major reversal. Then, a few matches later, Tokido fell to Dr Ray. Not to brag, but I do my research so these results weren't too shocking to me. I even went downstairs to see Infiltration's and Tokido's faces as they were losing in order to see how they'd react to those playstyles.

When my time to play came, however, I wasn't too concerned. Upsets are one of the things that makes Street Fighter awesome and seeds can give a false sense of validation. Not concerning myself with any of that, I just focused and worked through my two rounds.

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It was then time for Xiaohai. I knew going in that whoever won this match would likely win the whole thing. Xiaohai is — in my opinion — top three in the world. So naturally I was happy to come out on top.

The match itself was actually one of the bigger surprises from the event. I was able to win the best-of-five in five minutes: I just checked, it was actually four minutes (sunglasses).

Xiaohai told me he prepared a lot for me but I have a very good understanding of how he plays. I don't really study the Mika vs. Cammy matchup but I like Xiaohai so much that I watch lots of this games. I think that was my biggest edge; I had a strong understanding of how he reacts to certain situations.

At a big event and after a big win, it's impossible to avoid thoughts of "what if I win the whole thing".

This was especially true after I won in round three. That said, it's not a good mindset so I always try and refocus on my next opponent. I never want to think about winning until I actually see the KO.

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Nobody expected a USA winner's final or grand finals. So that was a nice moment for myself, Ricki, and the American fans. All these years America has been seen as the underdogs.

Before the match we hugged it out and it was a really great moment. I am grateful to have been a part of it. We even joked around beforehand about who has the best this or that. Nothing serious. It's always been fun and games with us before a match.

When it was game time though, we were ready to destroy each other.

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It was only after I won that all the stress hit me at the same time. The rage of training and losing online. All the tournaments I had lost this year. Everything replayed in my head for a quick second. Then it all went away. I had flashbacks of all the obstacles I had overcome to become the world champion and then they were gone.

That's right about when I put my head down. I didn't want anyone to see me get teary.

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The support from everybody was unreal. My inbox and notifications exploded. I couldn't really look at my phone for awhile because my eyes would start to hurt. I was also surprised that my family back home was watching. Normally they don't but that was pretty cool to know.

I also want to give a big shoutout to everyone who supported me from the jump. At the beginning of the year I was nowhere near the level I am today and I want to thank you all for your patience =)

Writer: Du Dang
Editor: Ryan Prager
Photos: Ken Serra
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