After a fairly dominant rise in the Street Fighter V scene, iDom has finally chosen a home with XSET after four years of competition, including a Capcom Cup championship.
Derek “iDom” Ruffin has been a staple of the Street Fighter community and has been a huge force from the New York City area. Having come up through the NLBC local circuit, he quickly made a name for himself locally in the NYC area before expanding outward. Many thought he was one of the hottest free agents on the market, especially after he claimed Capcom Cup 2019.
However, a team didn’t come along that iDom was interested in, as he was focused on schoolwork – until now that is. He even had offers when he first started to come onto the scene in 2017-2018, but he passed.
Freshly graduated and now one of the biggest Street Fighter V threats on the planet, both online and offline, XSET has signed the young player.
“It was really a timing thing for us,” Erin Ashley Simon, co-owner of XSET, told Esports.gg. “We’ve always wanted to get involved in the FGC but, we wanted to take our time with finding a pro player who’s one of the best and someone who embodies the core values of XSET. I think it’s special for us too to have a talent who represents New York City – a city that has amazing talent and untapped potential in esports and gaming.”
- Capcom Cup 2019 champion
- EVO Online NA east Champion 2021
- 2nd Red Bull Kumite London 2021
- Defend the North 2019 champion
- Total career earnings since 2017: $279,975
XSET not only has big plans to back iDom’s efforts in the FGC, but also to help support the infrastructure of the FGC, and especially tournaments and efforts to help female players step up.
“How we would like to approach supporting the FGC is in progressive steps, starting with supporting iDom. Not just supporting his competitive journey but, helping him build his brand in other spaces based on his passions, i.e. content, charities, and more,” Simon said. “To us at XSET, it’s important that we set talent up for successful longevity in their careers and for their futures. We envision a future step being supporting FGC communities initiatives like all-women and east coast-based tournaments and events, through our D&I programs.”
For iDom, the timing was perfect. His classes, done. Now he is setting his sights on spreading his love of fighting games with XSET’s help.
“It’s 2021 now but before, when I first started competing at tournaments, in 2016-17, I was still in college at the time,” iDom explained. “So years went by and I finished all my credits and stuff. Now I’m done, I finished school. It’s a good time to be on the market.”
XSET wasn’t the first team that approached iDom, but it was the team that he felt the most comfortable signing with. Many esports teams, especially when iDom was on the come up, had been signing players rapidly. iDom waited, preferring to focus on his studies, but also to find the right offer.
“A lot of the teams were, I wouldn’t say shady, but I always tried to keep my ear to the wall, try to listen in, and know what’s going on in the community,” iDom said. “I’ve heard really good things about everyone here at XSET, everyone’s been so nice and comforting, really helpful. I know people who are mutual friends with people in the company and they’re really nice. They really made me feel welcomed in.”
For XSET, it was all about finding the right fit as well, and they want to set themselves apart from other esports teams that have treated fighting game players perhaps a bit more poorly than they deserved.
“We actively listen to our talent. We’ve created internal channels for pro players and talent to communicate to XSET staff for various reasons. Maybe they are interested in doing charity initiatives, or there’s a problem we can work to fix, or even if they are feeling blue and need some time off. We strive to create an environment where talent feel heard and can communicate with us. Also, one of the channels is set up for all talent and staff to watch our pro players compete and cheer them on. So not only are pros getting staff support but support from all of the members of XSET. We’re truly lucky to have such amazing talent.Erin Ashley Simon, Co-Owner of XSET, on what sets them apart form other organziations.
“XSET is about competition but also, diversity, inclusion, and gaming at the intersection of entertainment,” Simon explained. “All of these elements drive everything we do when it comes to supporting different esports communities, our talent, and creating safe, inclusive environments for fans and everyone. We are excited to be joining the FGC and I hope you all are down to join us on this exciting ride!”
We had the chance to sit down for an exclusive interview with former Capcom Cup and reigning Evo Online champion iDom to talk about how XSET will help him take his game to the next level, his hopes for the future of Street Fighter, and the upcoming Red Bull Kumite Las Vegas, where he will represent XSET for the first time.
How XSET and iDom will be a perfect team
Dustin Steiner, Americas Editor, Esports.gg: How do you think XSET is going to help you take your game to the next level?
Derek “iDom” Ruffin, XSET SFV player: For me, I feel like if you have people encouraging you and comforting you, encouraging you to always play your best and do well, that helps in the long haul. Having someone in your corner to really cheer you on and back you up, so I feel like XSET could really help with that.
Steiner: Something that other FGC and Smash players have done is have a coach to help them go over their gameplay, different strategies, and mindset. Is that something you guys have discussed with XSET?
iDom: So I’ve been playing fighting games for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never really been – I don’t want to say uncoachable – but I’ve never really had a coach when I’ve played.
It’s something that I might look into but I feel like I can handle it on my own, kinda. I’m not really super open to it. [laughs]
Steiner: With XSET, do you think you’ll be at every offline major that you can be?
iDom: Hopefully. I want to go to more events, but there hasn’t been a ton of events happening with COVID. Hopefully I can go to as many offline events as possible.
iDom’s Career and Legacy in the FGC
Steiner: XSET has a lot of resources at their disposal and you are rather prolific in online Street Fighter. Have you talked with them about potentially hosting online SFV events to get more people involved in the FGC?
iDom: That’s a great idea. Hopefully, we can start doing that. I want to improve my stream and my youtube to try to get more people into fighting games as well.
Steiner: Obviously, you’ve been doing well for yourself, you’ve been super dominant in the past few years. You’ve done really well both offline and online with the pandemic. What’s been the biggest difference for you staying consistent in both of these areas when some other players might have fallen off?
iDom: My way of playing is super consistent, no matter where I’m playing. Whether that’s in a building with fans cheering as loud as possible, or in the sanctity of my own room, I feel that either way I’m going to play the same exact way, and either way it should work. I just feel comfortable no matter which environment I’m in.
Steiner: Does the lag from SFV’s notoriously poor online ever get to you when you’re playing?
iDom: I try not to think about it but you know nothing’s the same as playing offline. It bothers me, but what are you going to do about it. [chuckles]
Steiner: Talk to me about your career leading up to this. Obviously, you won Capcom Cup in 2019, you’ve been in the scene since 2017 having coming up through NLBC. What’s been the defining moment in your career and how much have things changed?
iDom: Like you said, I started in 2016 or so. I started as a hobbyist, just playing the game. I went to tournaments and I was doing pretty well for myself, but I wasn’t winning as consistently as I am now.
I kept going and practicing, and then attending even bigger events outside of New York in Philly and New Jersey, stuff like that. It kept expanding, I started going to Florida, Puerto Rico, I’ve even been to London now, so I’ve been to so many places just playing the game and I feel it’s really helped me grow as a player.
Steiner: Do you think the scene has massively changed since you’ve started playing?
iDom: I feel like the scene’s going to keep growing as long as people keep playing fighting games and encouraging people to play fighting games. I love fighting games. It has to be my favorite genre of video games, I play games a lot. All I want is more people to play fighting games.
Steiner: What is it about fighting games that makes them so attractive to you?
iDom: It’s just competitive intensity. I feel it’s like saying ‘hey, I’m better than you!’ and there are no other outside problems, I’m just better and I’m here to prove it. It’s different from shooters or mobas, oh my team played bad, or a racing game, you have a better car than me, there are no excuses.
Steiner: If you had everything go your way, what do you want your legacy to be in the FGC? What do you want people to remember you for?
Steiner: I know this is somewhat of a hot topic with you – you have a pretty bitter rivalry with Punk, or it seems that way. Do you think that’s going to heat up now that you both have teams, and potentially team social media egging that on, do you think it’s going to be more intense, less intense, or are you looking to call a truce for now?
iDom: I’m not sure – honestly, I don’t really think of it too much as a rivalry. More like I’ve just been trying to do my thing and play the game. I’m trying to help everyone out, I’ve been relaxing, trying not to think too much about it. Whenever I go to an event or a tournament, I’m just looking to win and do my best. So I don’t try to think of it that much. It’s more of a friendly jab between us.
Steiner: A lot of fighting game players have stepped up during the pandemic and started becoming content creators in their own right. How will you use your YouTube to spread your love of fighting games?
iDom: I want to show people the excitement. Everyone thinks that every fighting game player can just play fighting games. People expect me to be instantly good at every game I pick up. But it’s not really like that with fighting games.
You can play one fighting game and be insanely good at it and then try another one, there’s still a huge learning process. I’m not just amazing at it. I want to show people if I play another fighting game, I have to learn it and figure it out. It’s more relatable when people see that and you can try to help them from there.
iDom’s Wishes for Street Fighter 6 and Riot’s League of Legends fighting game
Steiner: WIth SFV, it’s dwindling down now that the DLC is done – obviously, there’s still the Pro Tour, but many eyes are looking ahead. What would you like to see in Street Fighter 6 that would really elevate the game’s competitive scene?
iDom: I just feel like with Street Fighter 6, if they want to get more people into the game… I feel like the fun is the biggest factor. Anyone can play a video game if it’s fun. I don’t know that accessibility is the right path.
I know it’s generally good in most games but I don’t think it’s true in fighting games. Valorant, Call of Duty, and those kinds of games are super popular and they aren’t super accessible to the average player.
Funny enough I watch the XSET Valorant team all the time and they’re insane, and I’m a mere silver rank in that game. In terms of fighters, it’s not rocket science but it’s not cut and dry.
Steiner: So you think they should just focus on making a game that’s fun to play first, rather than anything else?
iDom: I think fun is the key factor. If your game is fun one guy’s gonna tell another guy “this game’s fun.” One guy turns into three, which turns into 20, and then boom you have a huge community. Rollback netcode would be good too because it enlarges the number of people you can play with. Playing against other players is fun and not having to worry about it lagging or messing up is always a great start.
Steiner: Any characters you’d like to see? Should Capcom maybe leave the game in the oven longer and try to start with the characters they have now, or should they start with a small roster again?
iDom: I’ve never been a huge fan of small rosters. I think that’s one issue that fighting games have that makes it why casual players don’t try to get into it. As for characters in SF6, I hope Laura’s in it. But as far as the other characters, I think they can bring the majority of characters back and people wouldn’t be too upset. Carry over the V characters, add some interesting and cool characters to the new game and I think Street Fighter 6 will be great.
Steiner: You mentioned that you’re a fan of other esports and developers like Riot. Are you looking forward to the League of Legends fighting game?
iDom: I’m very interested in it, I want to see Riot’s take. I’ve played a decent amount of Riot’s games in my time, I’m very curious about their take on it and how they will get people into fighting games. I just want fighting games to be as popular as things like Valorant and Call of Duty. It will probably help that they are using League of Legends characters, people love those characters.
What’s next for XSET iDom? CPT 2021 outlook and Red Bull Kumite Las Vegas
Steiner: What’s your outlook look like for the rest of the Capcom Pro Tour season?
iDom: Hopefully I qualify for Capcom Cup VIII – I think the next event is in January that I can attend. Hopefully, I qualify for the event and keep playing and can win Capcom Cup VIII.
You were invited to the upcoming Red Bull Kumite Las Vegas. Talk to me a little about that format, how does it figure to you so far as its worth when compared with the Pro Tour?
iDom: The first Red Bull Kumite I was invited to was Red Bull Kumite 2019 before the pandemic. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a passport at that time and it was outside of the country. I was so upset with myself because I could’ve been there. I wouldn’t have gotten a passport in time. But I got invited to the one in London, the most recent one, it’s quite the experience. It’s not your average tournament format, it’s refreshing for the audience and the players. It takes a different approach, there are more opportunities as opposed to the standard double-elimination, 2 out of 3 formats. It’s more fun and I feel like it adds suspense, and it changes up the rules, people can get bored doing the same old thing.
Steiner: Red Bull’s presentation is among the best that the FGC has or has seen. Do you think more events should look to do things like that to attract the more casual viewer?
iDom: Yeah! I think more events like Kumite is great for the community, Red Bull always brings in a lot of viewership. It helps people get into fighting games. If more people would want to watch — I don’t even know my bracket yet. When I go to other tournaments, I have at least some notice of who’s in my pool or what players are going, so I can tell who to practice against. Right now, I don’t even know who I’m playing so I’ve been practicing against every character in the tournament.
Steiner: Is that more difficult than your standard Evo-type bracket?
Steiner: I know pool play is very essential to the FGC, and the open nature it has. But as a pro player and someone of your caliber of skill who has won Capcom Cup, does it almost feel like a foregone conclusion that you’re going to get out of pools. Does it feel like a waste of time?
iDom: [laughs] You know, kind of? Like I said it’s essential. People like the upsets. The upsets are probably the most hype thing about the FGC, that the casual fans really enjoy. It’s definitely a double-edged sword.
Steiner: Is there anything you’d like to say to both your fans and maybe fans of XSET that aren’t as familiar with the FGC?
iDom: Thank you for watching. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. If you’re fans of XSET, definitely check out the FGC. If you’re a fan of me already, definitely check out XSET.