The world’s most famous fighting game player has a new sponsor. Surprisingly, he also still has his old one.
Fighting game legend Umehara Daigo announced on Saturday (Friday night in the U.S.) that he had entered an official partnership with Red Bull. While all the details of the partnership were not clear, Red Bull will help Daigo with event and stream production in Japan. The energy drink company will also help bring at least one of Daigo’s books, The Willpower to Keep Winning, to the West with an English-language printing.
The announcement came during the most recent episode of DaigoTheBeasTV, Daigo’s weekly stream. The episode was the first to take place from the Red Bull Japan studio, and the move was accompanied by a significant increase in production value. Daigo had previously worked with Red Bull to host a Street Fighter V team tournament in April, and the two will work together to host another tournament in August.
In a bit of a surprise, the beginning of Daigo’s partnership does not mean the end of his relationship with Mad Catz. The peripheral maker, who signed Daigo in April 2010, recently laid off 37 percent of its staff after significant financial issues. The layoffs included fighting game community manager Mark “Markman” Julio, who had long served as the face of the company’s fighting game efforts. Mad Catz also allowed its sponsorships of Hayashi “Mago” Kenryo and Taniguchi “Tokido” Hajime to expire in March, which left Daigo as the company’s lone sponsored player.
Red Bull has quickly become familiar in the world of player co-sponsorship. The company recently partnered with a pair of Team SoloMid players: League of Legends player Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Super Smash Bros. Melee star William “Leffen” Hjelte.
Daigo joins a star-studded group of fighting game players under the Red Bull banner. His new teammates include fellow Japanese player Takahashi “Bonchan” Masato, Frenchman Olivier “Luffy” Hay, and American Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis. The four players combined to win an incredible 24 Capcom Pro Tour events during the past two seasons.
Red Bull’s roster has an impressive collective resume, but Daigo’s is impressive all on his own. Known as “The God of 2D Fighting Games,” he has won tournaments dating back to 1998 in the Vampire Hunter, Capcom vs SNK, Guilty Gear, and Street Fighter series. He is a six-time Evo champion, a two-time Super Battle Opera champion, a two-time Topanga A-League champion, a two-time Topanga World League champion, and the winner of countless other tournaments and championships.
Beyond simply being a good player, Daigo has risen to a level of celebrity that no other fighting game player has reached. He is the star of an ongoing manga series which covers his history in fighting games. An upcoming Kinetiquettes figure will feature him between the two characters he used most often during the Street Fighter IV series, Ryu and Evil Ryu.
Even those who don’t follow Street Fighter have likely come across his most famous highlight: “Evo Moment #37.” The comeback play, in which he parried every hit of Justin Wong‘s attack and countered with a game-winning combo of his own, is one of the most famous clips in competitive gaming history and would later be immortalized as a trial in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition.
Daigo’s first tournament under the partnership will be next weekend’s Stunfest in Rennes, France. The event will be Daigo’s first Capcom Pro Tour event of the 2016 season. He will enter the event as the defending champion thanks to his memorable victory over Momochi Yusuke in the grand final of last year’s tournament.
Update 11.50am CT, May 16: Since this story was first published, The Daily Dot has confirmed that Daigo’s future relationship with Mad Catz will not include player sponsorship and that Red Bull will be his primary sponsor. This information was first reported by Yahoo Esports.