Last week at the Esports Arena in Santa Ana, California, 29-year-old Jesse Espinoza a.k.a “Commander Jesse” managed to qualify for the Brooklyn Beatdown in New York by winning the Wednesday Night Fights ESL season qualifier over the course of several weeks. He also qualified in style by winning his first WNF tournament in the season finale coming from the losers bracket in a very intense grand finals set against against fellow SoCal player “Bushinstyle” with his clutch Dhalsim play.
“It's been a personal goal of mine for quite some time and I've gotten close a few times and was starting to feel like I hit a wall,” Jesse said. “So being able to finally pull it off, on the season finale, was more than I could have asked for. I'm still pumped!”
Surprisingly, Jesse added that this trip to the East Coast will be his first time traveling to a major tournament outside of California and Evo.
“I'm excited for the chance to be able to compete with some of the best players in the world over in Brooklyn,” he said. “So I'm definitely feeling a lot of excitement and curiosity.”
Jesse has been a longtime and well-known Street Fighter IV player which was his first competitive game. His characters were Chun-Li, Sakura, Guile and in the later stages of the SF4 series he started playing Dhalsim which is now his main character in SFV.
“He was so different from characters I was used too and I had a blast playing him,” Jesse said. “So when SFV came out and I noticed they gave him a beard and a different character design, I knew it was meant to be.”
As far what fuels Jesse to compete in Street Fighter, he likens it to the times he had been involved in sports when he was younger.
“I used to play basketball as a kid so that drive has always been there. And I loved how that came back when I started competing in Street Fighter,” Jesse said.
“The FGC is truly something special. I've made friends through Street Fighter that I'll probably have for the rest of my life. I never thought I would get that from playing a game like that. The FGC is the reason people can't help but want to go to more tournaments and get involved. It's what keeps the game fun.”
While Jesse might be considered an underrated dark horse in Street Fighter competitions, he adds that while it may be advantageous for him in the sense the opponent’s unfamiliarity with his play style will have to make him/her adjust to him, this strength can be to his detriment as well.
“It can also be disadvantageous as I don't have the experience that other players have in terms of playing on big stages and being outside of their comfort zone. A double-edged sword I suppose.”
As far as what he’s looking forward to accomplishing at the Brooklyn Beatdown this weekend, Jesse said he wants to crack top 16, but he knows it’ll be a challenge and is looking forward to this opportunity that he has earned.
“I know they're are a ton of great competitors attending, but I believe that I can go far if I can play at my best. As far as a game plan or feelings towards the event, I just plan on playing my game and trying to keep my composure.”
Jesse is also looking forward to meeting playing with some of New York’s notable players such Kevin “Dieminion” Landon and Arturo “Sabin” Sanchez while at the event.
“Ever since I saw Kevin Landon’s play in SF4, I was always impressed with his approach to the game and how smart he was,” Jesse said. “I'm also looking forward to sharing Dhalsim philosophies with Arturo Sanchez. One of the Dhalsim founding fathers.”
If Commander Jesse ends up getting first place in SFV at the Brooklyn Beatdown, he said he would use the prize money for traveling with his mom and for more major tournaments to come.
“I just recently got my passport so if I were to win I would start planning a trip to Italy with my mother. Her and I have always wanted to go there so winning would help fund that. I think she'd enjoy a trip like that. I'd also put some aside and use some for traveling out to more major tournaments. I'm super excited to be able to do this and I would definitely love more opportunities.”