Red Bull Kumite is bringing the octagon to Las Vegas this weekend
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Original Reporting

Eight custom walls rolled into the Octavius Ballroom at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas earlier this week, assembled to create the Octagon that Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear Strive and Tekken 7 players will fight in at Red Bull Kumite Las Vegas.

“It amps up the adrenaline,” said Red Bull Kumite tournament director Jimmy Nguyen. “Once you’re in the cage, you have this innate instinct to fight your way out.”

Eight players for both Guilty Gear Strive and Tekken 7, along with 16 players for Street Fighter V, will compete within the Vegas cage. Meanwhile, 158 other players will compete on 64 PS5’s in the Last Chance Qualifiers on Saturday to secure one of the final spots in the tournaments for Tekken and Street Fighter. None of these LCQ competitors were invited to come — and they have a much tougher fight ahead of them.

It’s fight night with Red Bull Kumite

The octagon is similar to the cage featured in every Kumite invitational since 2015, but there are a couple differences. This one will be raised higher compared to previous years, putting the players a level up above the crowd. Competitors will be put on a pedestal, although most will end up falling off at some point throughout the tournament.

This is also one of the first major invitationals since the COVID-19 pandemic pushed fighting game tournaments online. Other tournaments have been held live, including Red Bull Kumite London in May, but few have hosted as much international talent as we’ll see this weekend.

“Ring rust is a real thing,” said fighting game commentator Stephen “Sajam” Lyon.

While online tournaments are legitimate, many players say they don’t compare to sitting next to your opponent for a match. Tekken player Hoa “Anakin” Luu, who was on a hot streak before the pandemic, has said he has been rusty since returning to offline play.

“International competition happened every single week before the pandemic in the fighting game community,” Sajam said. “We haven’t seen that in years.”

Red Bull Kumite organizers have been working around the clock since Monday, Nov. 8 to assemble the cage, put together all setups and prepare for the onslaught of players who are competing in the Last Chance Qualifier. You can watch all the action on Red Bull’s Twitch Channel. Each broadcast kicks off at 1pm PST, a full schedule can be found on Red Bull’s official site.

Aron Garst looks at esports from a different point of view by tackling the ways games are molded and broken by players around the world. He covers Call of Duty, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros, and everything else for Upcomer. You can read his previous work at WIRED, Rolling Stone, ESPN and elsewhere. Rise up red sea.
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