Heading into CapCom Cup 2016, NuckleDu may stand the best chance of taking home the top prize for the United States.
At the annual fighting game tournament, players from all over the world will compete in a Street Fighter competition, with the winner taking home a $120,000 prize. In total, 32 competitors will take part in the tournament, and they hail from Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Norway, Singapore, France, Brazil, Hong Kong, the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom and the United States.
NuckleDu, whose real name is Du Dang, is one of eight players from America, and he had a strong showing throughout this season, placing first in Canada Cup, Summer Jam, Absolute Battle, The Fall Classic and the Red Bull Battle Grounds.
Here’s everything you need to know about Du Dang.
1. He Was Born in Tampa, Florida
Du Dang is 20 years old and he was born in Tampa, Florida on May 12th, 1996. He is of Vietnamese descent.
Dang is considered to be one of the best professional fighting game players from the United States. Almost all of the tournaments he participates in are held in America, as he has a fear of flying and rarely travels overseas. However, he said in an interview with PVP Live that he’s open to the prospect of entering an international tournament.
“I actually want to travel to Australia really bad, but it’s so far,” he said. “We’ll see if I go next year. Vietnam would also be nice too.”
He also recently took a flight to Los Angeles for this year’s CapCom Cup.
Dang says that his parents were worried about his plan to get into the fighting game community, wanting him to focus on school, although they changed their minds a bit when he started bringing home money from the tournaments.
“But when I first went to my first major in Chicago, Illinois my mom disagreed and said no!” he wrote on Reddit. “Stay in school and focus! Typical Asian parents haha, but that all changed when I qualified for the 25th anniversary and brought home a 2500 dollar check. She was like wait you get money for this?? Haha she’s very supportive and I love my mom very much!”
2. He Won His First Tournament When He Was 16
Not only is Du Dang one of the best professional Street Fighter players in the world, he’s also one of the youngest.
He said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything that he was introduced to Street Fighter by his uncle, who was much better at the game than him. He mainly got into it because he wanted to beat his uncle, admitting that as a kid he always thought fighting games were dumb.
When he was just 16 years old, Dang participated in his first tournament: the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Tournament Qualifier in New York City. He came in second place. That same year, he also came in second at the Northeast Championships 13, and in 2013, he came in first place at Summer Jam VII.
3. He Struggles With Depression
Earlier this year, Du Dang opened up to his fans about his struggle with depression, saying that he came very close to ending his life.
“Basically I was ready to end it all,” he wrote on Twitter in March 2016. “I put extra dog food and water to last a week, threw my phone, and loaded my gun, and went into my room. As I was crying, inches from the trigger, my dog Tofu came and licked my hand and tears, which made me cry even more but made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I’ve always had thoughts of ending my life, but the past few days have just made it a lot easier to do it.”
Dang goes on to say that Team Liquid, the fighting game team he is signed with, was extremely supportive during this tough time, contacting him and asking him to fly out to Los Angeles to stay with them. He also expressed appreciation when fans reacted with concern over his social media posts.
“I thought people only cared about me when I do well at a tournament, but people actually cared about my physical and mental well being,” Dang wrote. “Thank you for your concern guys. I will come out of this stronger, and see it as a second chance.”
On a subreddit devoted to the fighting game community, hundreds of users responded to this post with love and support.
“[O]nly care about him when he does well at tournaments?! He couldn’t be more wrong,” one user wrote. “If he went through with it the entire FGC would be devastated. Hopefully he can overcome this and return to SFV, and once again make the entire American FGC proud.”
Those struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide can call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a counselor 24 hours a day.
4. He Has Earned $33,000 From Tournaments
Du Dang has earned an estimated $33,000 across 34 tournaments, according to eSports earnings.
The most amount of money he has won at once came from the Red Bull Battlegrounds Capcom Pro Tour North American Finals in November 2016, where he came in first place and won $7,000. He also won $6,900 by coming in first at Canada Cup 2016.
At EGL Dallas 10K, Dang came in first place in the Ultra Street Fighter IV competition, which would earn him $5,000. However, the company that hosted the event, Epic! Gaming Lounge, went bankrupt later that year, and so many of the participants never received the full prize money that was promised to them, according to eSports Observer.
5. He Loves to Taunt His Opponents
Du Dang is a big fan of taunting his opponents while playing Street Fighter, particularly with Guile’s shades. If the fighting game community was the WWE, Dang would likely be classified as a heel character.
It’s mostly all in good fun, although not everyone feels that way. Justin Wong, another professional Street Fighter player, said on Twitter that he isn’t a fan of Dang’s taunting.
Others, however, find it to be hilarious, and Team Liquid clearly sees no issue with it, mocking detractors on Twitter with a “deal with it” gif.