Formerly a beast from the East Coast, professional Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition pro Jonathan ‘JB’ Bautista has since become a West Coast warrior. While he wasn’t always the fighting game savant we know and love today, his childhood fostered a love for the Street Fighter series that has continued into the present day - and now, he’s making big waves in the series’ competitive circuit in a major way.
“Falling in love” with fighting games
While other fighting game players may have discovered the genre through a friend group, hanging out in the arcade, or by happy circumstance, JB grew up around the Street Fighter games, harboring a deep familiarity with the series from a young age.
“What made me pick Street Fighter over other fighting game titles was that it had such iconic characters, who have some of the best designs in video game history,” JB said of his introduction to the franchise. “Street Fighter was a household name back where I was from, and I grew up loving the characters. So, naturally, Street Fighter was the game I leaned towards when becoming a part of the fighting game community.”
Og course, there’s a big difference between casual and competitive play, and JB decided to take his game to the next level after witnessing the atmosphere at the Evolution Championship Series during the Street Fighter IV era.
“The instant I fell in love with fighting games was watching the very first EVO for Street Fighter IV, and falling in love with how important one tournament was for every single player there,” JB recalled. “You can see it in every person’s face how much they wanted to win every match, and I wanted to have that feeling for myself.”
I’m summoning a storm!
Since becoming a competitive player, JB has gone on to main Rashid in Street Fighter V, a brand-new character in the series known for his use of the turbulent wind, solid rushdown pressure, and far-reaching normal moves. Despite these major strengths, JB doesn’t feel that Rashid is a foolproof fighter, finding Cammy and Necalli difficult matchups for the tech-savvy socialite.
“I chose Rashid as my main because he was the only character that I felt represented my style of play [in the beginning of] SFV,” JB explained. “He was very fast and mobile, and really offensive when he needed to be, so I was immediately interested in Rashid way more than the rest of the cast. I would say that, although Rashid has amazing ground and air control, he lacks a consistent answer to characters that are able to alter their jump trajectory and timing midair. Characters like Cammy and Necalli can give Rashid a hard time sometimes if they know how to properly mix up their jump-ins.”
From East Coast to West Coast
After becoming a familiar face at the Next Level Battle Circuit in New York, JB made a major life change: he uprooted himself and headed to the West Coast, finding a new home in sunny, southern California. While JB thinks that players from both regions are highly skilled, he’s discovered some unique differences in each area, having been a player for both teams in the evergreen “war” between the coasts.
“...I've noticed that there is a difference in skill level between the players, but not enough to immediately say which coast is better,” JB said of the matter. “...If you count every single player from each coast in the equation, then I think that the East Coast is stronger when it comes to placings, earnings, and presence. But the East Coast is very divided in skill level. I think that the East Coast has world class players who are leagues above the average players there, but the West Coast has countless players that are all at an equally high skill level that are very close to matching their own world class or professional players.”
Taking Texas Showdown
To JB, Street Fighter is like a “digital chess game,” a sentiment echoed by his Street Fighter League opponent, Derek “iDom” Ruffin, who similarly stated that the series is like a “high speed chess match.” Both JB and iDom have been making waves in the Street Fighter League: Pro-US 2019 tournament series, where they throw down with other players in a 3v3 team-based format - an experience that JB feels helped him “level up” enough to take Capcom Pro Tour 2019 Ranking Event Texas Showdown in early May.
“We all played so many games and grinded during the tournament that I can only blame the Street Fighter League for helping me get that first place win at Texas Showdown 2019,” JB said of his victory. “Everyone who was in the League performed well that weekend!”
JB wasn’t the only SFL participant in Texas Showdown’s Top 8 bracket, either; in fact, there were five SFL players taking part in Sunday’s finals, with the likes of Kevin “DualKevin” Barrios, ElChakotay Andrich, and Du “NuckleDu” Dang in the mix, who JB threw down with in an intense Grand Finals set.
“I've never competed in a tournament before being so confident that I was going to win, that anything other than placing first would have disappointed me,” JB said. “This was my mindset after I knew I got Top 8. I was so confident in winning that tournament that right as I sat down to play against NuckleDu in Grand Finals, I looked at him and jokingly asked if he was ready to get second place two years in a row. Although I felt like I was just teasing him since I consider him a very good friend of mine, part of me also felt like I was being serious, and I definitely expected to win!”
Another fight is coming your way!
While JB continues to duke it out in the Street Fighter League - an experience he called a “wild ride” - that isn’t the end of his competitive journey, by far. This year, JB hopes to qualify for Capcom Cup 2019 in December, in order to compete with SFV’s top players at the game’s most high-stakes tournament of the Pro Tour season.
“My goals for this season is to make it to Capcom Cup, since I have never been there,” JB claimed. “I would love a chance at competing with only the world's best. Fans can expect me to give it my all this year, and to try to travel to as many tournaments as possible.”
Having effectively “leveled up” at the League and won a major victory at Texas Showdown, JB continues his quest to qualify for Capcom Cup - and the season is only just beginning!