Luffy signs with Red Bull

Just days before the launch of Street Fighter V, and the beginning of the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour (CPT), Red Bull has signed the biggest free agent in the fighting game world

Just days before the launch of Street Fighter V, and the beginning of the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour (CPT), Red Bull has signed the biggest free agent in the fighting game world.

EVO 2014 Ultra Street Fighter IV champion Olivier “Luffy” Hay of France announced on Saturday that he has signed with the energy drink company’s team. The terms of the deal were not immediately available.

Luffy became a free agent at the beginning of the year after he elected not to resign with Meltdown, the European esports bar chain that first sponsored him in 2014. Luffy said in a Best of III interview in early January that he had received a great offer from another European sponsor, now known to be the Austrian energy drink company.

Luffy brings an impressive resume to Red Bull. He has been known as a strong player within Europe for many years, but he announced his presence on the international stage when he won EVO 2014, becoming the only player from outside of Asia to win a Street Fighter IV tournament at EVO. He won 12 Capcom Pro Tour events over the last two years—more than any other player—and was the highest-placing European player at each of the last two Capcom Cups.

Red Bull will certainly hope that his dominance in Ultra will translate to success in Street Fighter V on the 2016 CPT. The game launches this week, while the Capcom Pro Tour begins with Cannes Winter Clash in France on February 26. Luffy finished in a disappointing tie for 25th at the French event last year, which was his only finish below 9th at a European CPT event in 2015.

Luffy is the third Street Fighter-focused player signed by Red Bull in the past seven months. He joins Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis of the United States and Japan’s Takahashi “Bonchan” Masato, who signed with the company in July and September respectively. The three players combined won three of the top four places at EVO 2014, and won nine Capcom Pro Tour events in 2015. All three players figure to be strong favorites to return to Capcom Cup in 2016.

Red Bull’s roster also includes Frenchwoman Marie-Laure “Kayane” Norindr, who was signed by the company in 2014. Although Norindr is primarily known for her play in the Dead or Alive series, she won the women’s invitational Street Fighter tournament at EVO 2010.

Red Bull’s recent push into the fighting game world goes beyond its roster. The company hosted its first fighting game event, the well-received Red Bull Kumite, in 2015. A second edition of the event is scheduled for April 23 and 24. Red Bull has also partnered with other major events, having sponsored “salty suites”—after hours exhibition matches—for both Ultra Street Fighter IV and Super Smash Bros. Melee at EVO 2015, as well as streaming the reveal of the EVO 2016 game lineup on its Twitch channel.

Red Bull has also recently expanded its coverage of fighting games on its website, including results and player profiles for several prominent fighting game players. Earlier this week, the site partnered with Capcom for the announcement of the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour schedule.

Photo via DreamHack/Flickr (All rights reserved, used with permission)