Until Monday night, rapper Lupe Fiasco was primarily famous for his skill on the mic. Now, he’ll also be known for his skills with an arcade stick.
Fiasco scored a 3-2 victory over fighting game legend Umehara Daigo in a Street Fighter V exhibition match on Monday night. The victory will likely be remembered as the greatest upset in the game’s lifespan, regardless of the fact that the match occurred an hour before the game officially launched.
The match was the main event of Capcom’s official Street Fighter V launch event in San Francisco. The undercard included exhibition matches featuring Long “LPN” Nguyen, Kelvin Jeon, and several other strong Northern California players.
But the fans who made it out to the event were there primarily to see if the man behind songs like “Kick, Push”, “Superstar” and “The Show Goes On” could hang with the two-time champion at Evo, the biggest tournament in fighting games.
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The odd rivalry began on Twitter. Fiasco, while on his recent “Tour For The People” Tour, tweeted several times about his feats in various Street Fighter games. The tweets got the attention of many people in the fighting game community, including MadCatz’ now-former brand ambassador Mark “Markman” Julio. Markman laid down the challenge on behalf of the MadCatz-sponsored Daigo, and Fiasco eagerly jumped at the chance to throw down against the world’s most famous Street Fighter player.
Daigo, who finished second at Capcom Cup 2015, certainly didn’t bring his best to the event. After all, the event was primarily held to promote Street Fighter V, and what better way to get new players excited about learning the game than having a new player beat one of the most established veterans in the fighting game world? It’s certainly possible that Daigo intended to lose, or at least intended to win a close match and made a mistake at the end. Both players appeared to believe the set to be a first-to-five instead of a best-of-five, so neither player reacted after the decisive game.
Yet there was just enough evidence seen in the match to suggest that the result may have come organically. Daigo said in an interview before the match that he hadn’t played any SFV before the day of the event, and his unfamiliarity showed. He missed several of the more difficult combos he attempted and repeatedly whiffed on Dragon Punches intended to stop Fiasco’s jump-ins.
For his part, Fiasco had an unorthodox-yet-fairly-competent playstyle. His play certainly wouldn’t be confused for that of a Capcom Cup champion, and he made more than his fair share of mistakes. But he made several decisions that bordered on brilliance. He was able to convert some key hits into big damage, and his decision-making process was hard to predict throughout the set.
The two were friendly throughout the event. Daigo gave Lupe a copy of the manga based on his competitive career before the match, and Fiasco returned the favor by giving him his custom-made Metal Gear Solid jacket off of his back. The two then went to a nearby Gamestop to hand out copies of Street Fighter V to those who picked up the game at launch.
The event was all fun and games for Daigo, but things will soon become much more serious. The 2016 Capcom Pro Tour (CPT) begins in less than two weeks with the Cannes Winter Clash in France. It’s currently unclear whether Daigo will attend the season opener and join a field that already includes Ryan Hart, Valentin “Valmaster” Petit, and new Red Bull signee Olivier “Luffy” Hay. If he skips that event, his first CPT event would likely be Final Round in Atlanta in mid-March, which will be the first Premier event of the season.
Fiasco, meanwhile, made his future competitive plans clear after the match.
“I’m retiring,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll take the win and run. I know when to get out.”