After what has been a tricky year for esports fighting games in general, there has been some light at the end of the tunnel in the past couple of months, thanks to support for the genre from the highly respected esports tournament organisation WePlay Esports.
After successfully organising and completing the WePlay Dragon Temple event over the past week, the company has moved quickly to announce a brand-new tournament for fighting game fans. The WePlay Ultimate Fighting League (WUFL) is a new venture headed by Oleg Krot and Yura Lazebnikov, the founders of WePlay Esports, and Cruiserweight world champion, now turned heavyweight title contender, Oleksandr Usyk.
The move will see WePlay open up a new section of the company which will be dedicated to running tournaments for the most popular esports fighting games. It is expected that this arm of the company will operate in much the same way that their much-admired organisation of Dota 2 and CS:GO tournaments has proceeded.
The news is a boost to the esports fighting games industry after the cancellation of the EVO Championship Series in Las Vegas due to Covid-19, and then the misconduct allegations against organiser Joey Cuellar, which saw many top players drop out of online tournaments planned for the summer of 2020.
Dragon Temple Mortal Kombat Event
The success of last week’s Dragon Temple Mortal Kombat event is thought to have played a key role in the decision for WePlay. The tournament was announced back at the end of November 2020 and was the first fighting game event hosted by WePlay. A $60,000 prize pool was offered to competitors at the WePlay Esports Arena in Kyiv to see who came out on top.
At the end of it, the aptly named Sayed “Tekken Master” Hashim Ahmed was the inaugural winner of the title, after the Bahrain-based player landed a victory following an astonishing unbeaten run on the first day of action and then earning three successive wins in the quarterfinal, semifinal and Grand Final to claim the title and $24,000 in prize money.
It is thought that given the success of the tournament, another Dragon Temple tournament may well be in the pipeline for 2021.
More Information on WUFL “soon”
Details about which games will be the focus of the WUFL are not yet known, but after Dragon Temple, it seems likely that Mortal Kombat will feature. Other games, such as Tekken and Street Fighter V are also likely to be part of the scene. As yet, details are unclear with further clarity and more information about the forthcoming tournaments expected soon.
The move is also part of a calculated strategy to expand the WePlay brand into the North American market, which is seen as something of a hub for Fighting Games in esports.
“The new company will develop the WePlay Ultimate Fighting League and diversify the pool of supported esports disciplines,” explained Mr Krot.
“These activities are in line with the media holding company’s global goal to expand [its] presence in North America, with its vibrant fighting game community.”
For boxing ace Usyk, the move allows him to expand his business interests as well as allowing him to explore some of the games he used to enjoy a few years ago.
“Competitive gaming is both a popular hobby for many young people and a promising direction for investors,” explained Usyk.
“I chatted with Yura Lasebnikov and Oleg Krot, they told me the specifics of the industry and I decided to try my hand in this business. Besides, I played games before, and now I’m back to this hobby.”
The plans are for the WUFL to host a number of top-tier esports fighting game tournaments and events across 2021.