Cloud9 top laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami was only 17 years old when he qualified for the 2019 League of Legends World Championship in Berlin, Germany with MAMMOTH.
At the time, he said he felt like a bystander. Sure, attending Worlds is a lifelong dream for most players, but it was difficult for Fudge to view the honor as much more than a participation trophy. To him, he was simply there because MAMMOTH won the Oceanic Pro League (now League of Legends Circuit Oceania), and the region only got to send one seed. He hadn’t yet built up expectations for himself.
But now, two years later, that’s very much changed. On Aug 22, 2021, the battle for the League of Legends Championship Series’ final Worlds spot took place between Cloud9 and TSM. Cloud9 was down 1-2 and Fudge said he could feel the pressure seeping in. He was no longer just some teenager from an emerging region. The whole world had been watching his growth from that of promising rookie to the lifeblood of one of the most successful teams in North America.
Now he’s C9 Fudge: LCS champion, Mid-Season Invitational attendee and recipient of the Most-Improved Player award. On the brink of elimination, he was fully aware he’d share equal responsibility for the outcome, whether C9 won or lost. Fortunately for Fudge, he achieved what he’d worked hard to ensure for himself: a ticket to the 2021 World Championship. And after making the trip official, he released all the tension he’d held onto during the series.
“I didn’t realize how stressed I was till I got out of the series,” Fudge said. “But when we won, I yelled. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled after winning before.”
The ‘Fudge Factor’
Fudge recalled his feelings as Cloud9 faced match point in the series. Disappointed with his performance on Gnar into Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon’s Camille in the previous game, resetting his mental and focusing on what lied ahead were two tasks at the forefront of his mind.
“After 30 seconds of thinking ‘what if I lose? What if I int again? What if I misplay lane? What if something bad happens?’ you sort of realize that those thoughts aren’t useful,” Fudge said. “All that’s important is the next moment that I play well.”
In the proceeding fourth game, Fudge redeemed himself with a stellar performance on Gangplank into Huni’s Viego. This was a matchup he admittedly had been struggling with in scrims. He capped off the final game of the series with a 7/0/6 carry performance on Gwen.
Maybe… Ban Gwen? pic.twitter.com/t4zu6Mv51F
— Cloud9 (@Cloud9) August 23, 2021
When it comes down to the wire in a do-or-die series, calm heads are just as valuable as quick hands. It was clear that Fudge’s emphasis on being present and not dwelling on past mistakes played a key factor in Cloud9’s success against TSM. With so many early games going in favor of TSM, mental fortitude was crucial for C9’s ability to problem-solve their way out of tight spots in-game, as well as adapt throughout the rest of the series.
Fudge is no stranger to pressure, either. Since his January debut during the 2021 LCS Lock In, he’s been one of the most heavily criticized pros in the league. On the other hand, when Cloud9 struggled during MSI and summer, he was also highly praised as the team’s one saving grace. Fudge has since been one of Cloud9’s scariest weapons, and he showcased this on Sunday. But, while he’s glad he can consistently showcase gameplay at that high level, he now has much higher expectations of himself.
“I should be able to stomp these teams. Individually, I should always be getting leads,” Fudge said. “When you go internationally, you lose a lot of lanes that you’re supposed to win, especially when you’re facing Chinese and Korean teams where they push mistakes really hard.”
Looking toward Worlds, Fudge knows he won’t have the luxury of hiding behind inexperience. Qualifying for Worlds alone isn’t enough; he wants to become a rock for his team — a player who is stable and can reliably lead his team to victory.
“My goal is to figure out matchups almost to perfection,” Fudge said. “I don’t want to have cases where the matchup should go like this, but I made a mistake or he just played it better. I really hate that feeling.”
Having experienced the feeling of attending Worlds, and being written off instantly as a punching bag due to his region, Fudge rejects the notion that the LCS can’t succeed at Worlds. And, going into the tournament, he’s holding himself to high standards. Fudge is not attending for a participation trophy; his goal from the beginning has been to play well.
“Everyone’s expecting every NA team to get stomped when they go internationally,” Fudge said. “I think that’s a terrible feeling going into a tournament, especially when you want to be seen as a very good player.”
In terms of teams he’s looking forward to facing in China, T1 and Gen.G are at the top of his list. That is due to his friendship with content creators of both orgs, Nick “LS” De Cesare and Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek, respectively. While Fudge is excited to play against the big names on both teams as well, he said he is most looking forward to the bragging rights on the line.
In the month between now and the start of Worlds 2021, Fudge will prepare to travel and boot-camp with Cloud9 in preparation for the tournament. While he remains focused on showing up at the biggest international proving ground, he still has time to revel in how much he’s changed from the 17 year old he’d been when sitting on that stage in Berlin. For now, that means a nice steak dinner on Cloud9 Owner Jack Etienne’s dime.
“I don’t actually remember what’s on the menu,” Fudge said. “But I’ll probably just get the most expensive thing.”
Worlds may be locked, but Fudge and the rest of Cloud9 aren’t yet finished with their journey through the LCS Championship. On Aug. 28 at 5 p.m. ET, they’ll play 100 Thieves for a shot at defending their Mid-Season Showdown title in the grand finals.