No, his name isn’t “Ivan Domination” - Derek Ruffin, who goes by the tag “iDom,” is one of New York City’s strongest Street Fighter players, best known for his outstanding performances at local tournament ‘Next Level Battle Circuit.’ However, iDom wasn’t always a household name, and he didn’t even start traveling to major tournaments until recently. Thanks to his skill in Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, he has managed to become a massive presence in the community, as well as a Team Captain in the Street Fighter League Pro-US 2019 tournament series.
From heartbreak to Rodeo Break
Despite being one of NLBC’s mainstay players, iDom’s success at one of the country’s most stacked weekly local tournaments didn’t happen overnight. In fact, iDom’s Street Fighter prowess was borne from heartbreak, as the result of a painful end to a romantic relationship. Rather than recovering by binging romcoms and eating ice cream straight out of the bucket, iDom turned his focus toward fighting games - a decision that would ultimately lead to fame in the fighting game community.
“I honestly got into fighting games after a really bad breakup in a relationship, and I kind of used [them] as a gateway or a relaxation to take my mind off it,” iDom explained. “I really enjoyed playing games that I could practice to master stuff, such as execution, to really better myself, so I liked playing fighting and rhythm games.”
This newfound hobby soon resulted in iDom’s first foray in competitive play. Already showing promise as a fierce competitor, he entered a tournament to test his skills - and ended up getting washed in the process. Despite this loss, iDom continued to pursue Street Fighter, which he compares to “high-speed chess.”
“I started playing fighting games competitively when I would beat all my friends and claim I was the best,” iDom recalled. “Then, I went to a tournament and did very poorly, and knew I had to get better. I chose Street Fighter because I always associated playing it [with] playing a high-speed chess match, where every input or attack is a move in chess - whether it is a pawn or a queen.”
To travel, or not to travel?
iDom’s breakout moment occurred at Defend the North 2017, after the player had already made quite a name for himself at NLBC. This marked his first championship win for Street Fighter V at a major tournament - a victory that he steamrolled through pools to take, not losing a single game throughout his entire run.
“I still remember in that tournament, I didn't lose a single game,” iDom recalled. “I think just competing and winning tournaments, from NLBC to Red Bull Qualifiers, and great tournament placings have helped me become better known.”
While iDom was one of NYC’s finest players, he didn’t begin to take his success abroad until later on in his competitive career. Many commentators, players, and fans bemoaned the fact that iDom’s Laura remained stationed in the East Coast, which he justified due to time constraints brought about by college - as well as a general distaste for flying, despite his love for competing and meeting up with friends.
“The more I started winning at NLBC, the more times I was asked when I was going to start traveling,” iDom said of the matter. “I just got tired of people asking, so I travel to tournaments I can get to. I love traveling to play games with people from all over the world, but I hate getting on airplanes and going to airports. In Season 1 and early Season 2 I didn't travel a lot because of school and time, but now, since I’m almost out of school and I have had a lot of extra time on my hands, the only thing that is really stopping me is money - and [lack of a] sponsorship.”
Character crisis? What’s that?
iDom has famously chosen to main Laura, a Matsuda jiu-jitsu practitioner with a special, electric flair. It didn’t take him long to make this pick, either; for iDom, it was love at first sight, bolstered by Laura’s damaging moveset and mobile playstyle.
“I chose Laura because I saw the trailer for her and, for some reason, I knew I had to pick this character,” iDom recalled. “One of her biggest advantages is her damage output, which is great, because I feel like if I can get a couple of clean hits and a stun, I win. I believe that her weakest matchup currently is Gief, just because of how good he is this season. He can counter a lot of her options.”
Of course, this means that iDom is a noted character specialist - a unique issue brought up in the Street Fighter League Pro-US 2019, which introduced a character ban clause that allows players to ban one character per team throughout the duration of their 3v3 battle. While iDom himself “felt handicapped” by the ban, he likewise stated that it is “great that some players get to show off their skills” due to the clause, as evidenced by his strategic draft picks with Miky ‘Samurai’ Chea and his threatening Akuma.
iDom also feels that the League offers a major opportunity for lesser-known players to get noticed by the community, thanks to its online qualifying tournaments and additional voting process.
“I qualified into the League by being Top 6 in Season 3 Capcom Pro Tour NA leaderboards,” iDom said of the competition. “I think the League does a great job letting people you don’t normally get to see show off their skills, and prove they can hang with some of the best.”
This isn’t the last fans will be seeing of iDom, by far; the player made sure to state that he will be “competing more” in the future, as well as “perfecting” his gameplay and “growing stronger as a player.” iDom’s spectacular growth since the beginning of SFV’s lifetime is a major testament to his strength, as evidenced by his concurrent victories at NLBC. The once-homebody is now looking to extend his wings and bring his Laura abroad - which could shake up this year’s Pro Tour in a major way.