Last weekend, the United Gaming Championships of South Africa (UGC ZA) held the Dragon Ninja Laser Eyes event (or DNLE), a tournament bringing together some of the county’s best Tekken 7 players for one day of intense match-ups, all working towards the greater goal of the Tekken World Tour 2022.
UGC held the event at a gorgeous Rosebank venue, complete with forna in the bottom floor before ascending to the tournament’s hall on the fifth floor. Consoles were set up in the back of the hall for participating players to practice while the main stage was professionally laid out. Personally speaking, it’s the most impressive set-up for a fighting game tournament that I’ve been to in South Africa, showing the UGC’s commitment to delivering international-quality events.
Additionally, the hall had stalls where local artists sold gaming and pop culture-themed merchandise, as well as a couch set up for casters. Once the gloves were off and the players were ready, it all came down to an exciting series of match-ups in Tekken 7 uplifted by spectators’ cheers that echoed around the venue. We might’ve missed out on Evo 2022 in person this year, but UGC delivered an atmosphere worthy of South Africa’s most exciting local tournament.
Chatting with Co-Founder Umar Bradlow
Minutes before the event kicked off, we had the opportunity to chat with UGC co-founder Umar Bradlow, who founded the organisation with his brother Junayd Bradlow in 2016, about how it all came about. “We were at a tournament and we just didn’t like the way that tournament organisers were treating fighting games and fighting game players,” said Umar. “They treated us like lower-end and were not really worried.”
“It’s a lot of fun to watch and easy to get into, so after that we decided ‘you know what? Let’s just do this and make it the biggest esport in South Africa’,” he added.
Umar then talked about their humble beginnings and the road they took to get to where they are today. “We’ve been playing fighting games our whole life. The first tournament I ever went to and had won, like I said it was so badly done. They made us stand and they didn’t end up paying us the prize pool that they said they were gonna pay us. That’s just not cool, man. The fighting game community is so welcoming and what’s nice about it is, in terms of other genres of gaming, it’s still always fresh and exciting.”
Of course, it doesn’t just end in South Africa as UGC is looking to expand to a global stage. “We’ve been just pushing the production level and the next step is to get international guys to recognise us,” said Umar.
What is their game plan going forward? “Obviously we’re partners with rAge, we’re also part owners of it,” said Umar. Interestingly, the rAge Expo this year will once again host a rAge Drive Tournament, featuring both Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V as well as retro games like Band Hero for everyone to play. A mini-tournament for MultiVersus will also be included, but the format of it will be a little different. More information to come soon.
The DNLE Matches
The DNLE Tekken 7 matches were intense, entertaining and engaging as we got to witness some of the best players from South Africa and beyond compete in tight battles. Local favourites like UGC’s own Solid Jago, Bravado Gaming’s DaxPT and more all took part in a top 8-style tournament, delivering some of the best local Tekken 7 that I’ve seen in years.
Most matches were met with great hype from the audience, but none quite like Jago’s fight against DaxPT which showed the former’s exceptional skill with Leroy. The losers final brought a close match between Bravado Gaming’s Iggy and Jago, with the latter moving to the Grand Finals where he went up against Mozambique’s Big Daddy Mike. However, BDM demonstrated his aggressive playstyle with Bryan that won him DNLE 2022.
Overal, UGC hosted a terrifically exciting event that was professionally put together and thrilling from beginning to end – complete with rather hilarious commentary from a round of enthusiastic casters. The atmosphere was a joy to be a part of and it was great as a casual Tekken player to see skilled local giants go head-to-head in match-ups. I now have hope that UGC can bring the same energy and enthusiasm of international events to the local scene.
Learn more about UGCZA on its official website here. You can watch the entire tournament below.
*Feature image by @nerdform