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Daigo Umehara, The Greatest Fighting Game Player of All Time

Daigo ‘The Beast’ Umehara is a 39-year-old Japanese gamer who specialises in 2D arcade fighting games. He has won six Evolution Championship Series and $175,659.82 in prize money so far. Daigo Umehara is one of the most famous Street Fighter players across the globe, considered the best player globally. Daigo is also currently the holder of a world record for being “the most successful player in major tournaments of Street Fighter” in the Guinness World Records. Daigo’s recent win at the Street Fighter V tournament has traction in the media, but his age has caught the most attention. 

Being 39 and winning a championship might seem impressive, but winning at street fighting games for someone of Daigo’s calibre isn’t all that unexpected. Daigo has been in the fighting-gaming scene for 20 years. 

Daigo was endearingly referred to in the Japanese media as “the god of 2D fighting games” before singing on a sponsorship deal with Mad Catz. This American company produces entertainment products marketed under Mad Catz, Game Shark, and TRITTON. His love for fighting games grew since he was a mere ten-year-old boy, with his first two games being Street Fighter 2 and Fatal Fury: King of Fighters. Through challenging other players in Street Fighter 2 (Champion Edition), Daigo discovered his preference for competing with other players. 

Daigo’s recent win in the latest Capcom Cup East Asia has brought him more spotlight in the media. In the match, Daigo competed with several talented Street Fighter V players, including the revered Street Fighter legend Hajime ‘ Tokido’ Taniguchi and Korean Hyung-suk ‘Verloren’ Gong. Daigo beat them both in his journey to the Capcom Cup qualifying match and did not suffer a single loss, until his last opponent, Keita’ Fuudo’ Ai, fought his way to a second set in the grand finals. Ultimately, The Beast won an incredibly intense competition with some of the best FGC pros in Asia. 

The focus on Daigo’s win was distracted by his age, with a lot of fixation on him being 39 years old, yet winning a Street Fighter tournament in 2020. For someone of Daigo’s calibre, however his win shouldn’t be much of a shock but more so something to expect of him. His earliest tournament win was during the 1997 Vampire Savior event hosted by Japanese video game magazine Gamest. Daigo’s successive wins included Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Capcom vs SNK 2, Guilty Gear XX, Street Fighter IV, and the most recent Street Fighter V

Coming in second next to Justin Wong in the Evolution Championship Series titles; he has won six EVO championships with his legendary performances in the biggest tournaments globally. More impressively, Daigo cinched two victories at Super Battle Opera, which is now defunct but once highly regarded as the most prestigious fighting game competition in the world at its inception.

His skillset, coupled with his 23 years of experience, would set him up for success. Daigo implemented a few tactical methods to help him secure his win during the tournament. For instance, he would opt for maximum damage combos that would provide him with the life lead, and force his opponents into playing against his defence. His ability to read his opponents well also plays to his advantage, along with his fluid conditions: he never stays in one position for long, often toggling between offence and defence, confusing his opponents. 

Daigo’s impeccable performances throughout his gaming career have brought him regular participation in tournaments, having been in at least one each year since the start of his gaming career in 1997. His success in his Street Fighter career has also earned him entry into every Camcom Cup since the game’s release in 2016. 

The esports industry’s strong fixation on youth and how to exploit it might have made Daigo’s win come as a surprise. After all, what’s a 39-year-old doing, winning video games designed for young ones? But Daigo is a living example of how age does not define anything. His past experiences in fighting games and current win in the recent tournament showcases and represents what esports truly is about at heart: a foundational passion for gaming that isn’t found in other competitive sports. Daigo Umehara might have shocked the world recently with his stellar performance in the Street Fighter tournament, but he has been and will continue to be, a legend in 2D fighting games. 

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