Benjamin “Problem X” Simon made history in more ways than one last Sunday night. Not only is he the latest world champion of Street Fighter V after winning this year’s Evolution Championship Series tournament, but he’s the first person outside of Japan to do so in Street Fighter V, and the first person from the UK to ever hold the title in the Street Fighter series at large.
We caught up with Simon shortly after his win to talk about his history with Street Fighter, who inspired him to play in the first place, regional pride, and which of the two new characters he’s most interested in trying.
Overall, how are you feeling about your performance here? Obviously, I know it’s a bit of a loaded question, but…
It’s still all trying to sink in, but I’m very happy to have won Evo 2018. I practiced really, really, really hard for this tournament, and I said to all of my friends that this year I want to win Evo because I have done well at everything else – ranking events, premieres, I did well at Eleague, got top eight at Capcom Cup – but every year at Evo, something happens. I always have a bad Evo. So I really focused for the tournament, so it means extra to me.
You’ve been around Street Fighter V for a while, but how long would you say your Street Fighter career has been?
About seven years. I traveled to Canada Cup 2011, that was when I started.
That was around Street Fighter IV, right?
So you played that competitively for a while. You have an Evo victory under your belt [in SFV], but overall do you think Street Fighter V is a game you understand better than Street Fighter IV?
I would say I was more of an advanced tournament player by the release of Street Fighter V. I started Street Fighter IV very late, I started late Super, but I feel like the game is a bit more accessible at an entry level, but since I’ve been playing from the start I felt it’s better for me. I would love to have been playing Street Fighter IV from vanilla and have the mindset that I have now to be able to compare, but since I don’t I would say that Street Fighter V obviously I have the Evo victory for V, so Street Fighter V.
When you’re thinking, “I am one of the few people from Europe,” – it was you and Luffy [Oliver Hay from France, who also made top eight] – how much do you think of that regional pride in terms of, “I’m not just doing this for my career, but I’m also doing it for the UK”?
I do have quite a bit of regional pride, but it’s lower on the list of things for me. Firstly, I wanted to do it for myself. And also for my sponsors and everybody who has believed in me for a long time. I started competing from watching [competitive Tekken and Street Fighter player] Ryan Hart when he was playing Daigo [Umehara] in SFIV in an old, old tournament, and I can’t even remember the name of the tournament now. But I watched that, and it got me into Street Fighter. And I’ve been playing and training with Ryan all along the way, not so much Street Fighter V, because he hasn’t been playing it as competitively, but still, the stuff I learned from Street Fighter IV and tournaments and lots of things that you can’t gain from competing, they have to come from somebody who has experienced all of these things. I like to win for all of that.
Ryan Hart, who inspired you, is here [Editor’s Note: Hart was accompanying Simon after his win and was in the room during the interview.] Is it strange for you to have this path come full circle, where the person who inspired you is the person who’s here with you now?
Not everybody gets that. It’s something that I aimed for, because I always try really, really hard. I came from a Call of Duty background, and I was doing really well in that game. I know that I’m a determined individual, but with the right experience and skillset and things like that, I’m happy to know that I was able to achieve what I have achieved today.
Now that you’ve won Evo, there are still other tournaments, but what are you setting your sights on in terms of improving as a player? Are you going back and immediately looking at your strategies, or what are you thinking about moving forward?
I just want to keep winning. I want to win Capcom Cup next. I got top eight last year, which is my first big top eight for Street Fighter V, so I would like to win that. And yeah, I’ve got to have a look at G.
You’re more interested in G than Sagat?
Oh yeah, yeah. I’m not a Sagat guy, but G, I like G.