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Interview with JabhiM: "I Wanted to Win For the Scene"

Femi Famutimi
6 min

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Interview with JabhiM
South Africa's strongest player had a chat with DashFight about his scene and what Capcom Cup means to him

Jabhi "JabhiM" Mabuza

Jabhi "JabhiM" Mabuza is a name that more and more people are waking up to. He burst into international consciousness in 2021 when he partook in South Africa's first-ever outing in the Capcom Pro Tour. He lost to Billy Date but had already captured the attention of all those watching. 

However, his rise came earlier than that. In 2019, Red Bull hosted a tournament in South Africa called Red Bull 'Hit the Streets', which JabhiM won, earning himself a trip to Japan for Red Bull Kumite 2020. He learned a lot from that before coming back to take 2nd place in South Africa's First CPT. In early 2022, he defeated Billy Date at the CPT Finals for his region and made no mistake when it was time to earn a spot at Capcom Cup IX.

DashFight, with the help of our good friend, Timothy Lee, was able to have a conversation with JabhiM talking about his experience at Capcom Cup and what it meant for his scene.  

Timothy was such great help and is an accomplished esports content writer with priors at ESPN and lolesports. You can check him out here.

Talk to me about your emotions or thoughts after the reality of qualifying for Capcom Cup sunk in? 

“My emotions were all over the place because everyone wanted to qualify for the Capcom Cup. It was already a mission to qualify with the former system because traveling out of Africa is not cheap, especially with the exchange rate. When you finally make it after putting your all in it, it’s just insane. It’s a lot of people’s dreams to be here.” 

You’re one of two African representatives at the Capcom Cup, the first your region qualified for the event, why did you think it took so long for there to be events or qualifiers for the continent?

“There wasn’t too much incentive to show Capcom that there was a scene here. If there were local events, it was just one area that played. It wasn’t until Red Bull South Africa in 2019 hosted a competition that rewarded the winner with a trip to Japan and Red Bull Kumite. It was there we met Yoshinori Ono where we showed him that there was a scene.”
“Even now, tournament organizers in Africa were not focused on fighting games. Back then, around 2018, there were no real tournaments, so the serious players that started with the game were already too far gone. Now, the hard task for organizers revolves around motivating new players and securing potential sponsorships for fighting games. For our higher-level players to develop, we need more exposure and experience to other regions and players, even if their chances to win tournaments are slim.” 

When did the change for more opportunity start to happen and how do you evaluate your community when compared to other scenes? 

“When Red Bull got an esports manager that was keen to try out fighting games, they came up with a format to showcase Street Fighter on the street to allow anyone to watch the game, and it was packed. They loved the engagement. When they announced a CPT for South Africa, so many players came out of retirement.” 

“For some of the older players, life just came first. There are only a handful of players in the region that can quit their job and live off esports – fighting games are a hobby because it’s not that big where we’re from. If it doesn’t put food on the table, a lot of players stop playing consistently.”

“We don’t have high-level experience or a competitive environment. When Pakistan dominated the Tekken community, it was because of their competitive vibe and environment. When you look at my region, it’s more casual because it feels like it is just starting. It will take more players and opportunities to burst onto the scene. I am one of three players that really put some change into our scene.” 

This was your first tournament at the highest level of skill and stakes; talk to me about your preparation and how you went about mentally working yourself up before the group stage?

“Generally, I watched a lot of the videos of the players in my group. But, just wanting to execute my game plan the way I wanted, but unfortunately, I did not really do that. It sucks to lose when you lab things, which was what I didn’t want but we move forward. I tried to understand the characters in my group, but it was difficult to lab against it because we don’t have as much variety on a high level to practice against.” 

While the results did not reflect the moment, talk to me about the impact your qualifying and playing on this global stage will do for your home scene?

“It sucks that I was close to getting wins because I wanted to win for the scene. Wins do more than advancing me forward because it gives the guys at home hope that they can actually do this – I wanted to do it for the team at home. I think when I go home, people will still ask me how I prepared or thought during the matches.”

Surely, we'll see JabhiM in Street Fighter 6, and with more and more chances opening up all around the world with the World Warrior Series, it is hoped that we'll get to discover even more scenes for Street Fighter.

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