Much like the pros in the NFL, professional esports players can have quite a few miles on their travel itineraries. The year of competition for a committed and sponsored esport player can mean travelling across the globe multiple times in just a few months, or even weeks. “Super Smash Brothers” pros Leonardo “Mkleo” Lopez Perez and Dylan “Makibaz” Bullard know exactly what it is like to travel to new places to compete and show off their talents.
In a span of just three months, “Mkleo” managed to travel to “Super Smash Brothers” competitions in over 4 different countries, including tournaments in Japan, Mexico, Austria, and the United States. Players with enough talent in the “Smash Brothers” world can be sponsored, and with a sponsorship comes new opportunities for travel. Leo’s past sponsorship with the esports team “Echofox”, and current sponsorship with “SK Telecom T1, allowed for him to travel to a variety of tournaments and helped contribute to his rise as the number one player in “Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate” today.
In an interview with ESPN Esports, Leo talked about how his travels were affected by his sponsorship, “the partnership with Echofox really gave me a lot of good opportunities to travel… and companies like my brother’s esports company MK are sponsoring more players in Mexico and allowing them to travel.” With a schedule full of tournaments, Mkleo was able to make the most of his “Super Smash Brothers” 2019 (and early 2020) season, winning 16 of the 27 tournaments he attended.
On a more local level, the number 1 ranked player in Mississippi and Memphis, Dylan “Makibaz” Bullard also shared his experiences as a travelling esports professional. Attending events in California, Mississippi, Indiana, and Tennessee, Makibaz talked about some of the preparation that comes with planning for a year full of smash. “I try to plan major tournaments as far in advance as I possibly can so that I can have the full plans mapped out where there could be no surprises. When it comes to locals, monthlies, and regionals, I usually look for which tournament has the most potential in terms of challenging opponents that will push me to improve, or the payouts that they will have.”
Bullard also has quite a career, winning or placing in top 8 of most every Tennessee tournament he has competed at. Travelling, according to Bullard, is something that he not only does for his smash career but also something he does with friends. His current doubles partner, the number one ranked player in Tennessee, traveled with him to tournaments like “Genesis” in California.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Bullard talked about the difficulties of competing in online tournaments, and just how much different they can be from the LAN tournaments that he travelled to. “I feel like online smash tournaments are great in theory, but awful in practice. There are too many things that can go wrong simply due to the connection being unstable… and the jobs of the tournament organizers get a lot more difficult,” Bullard said.
Despite schedules for these esports players being interrupted because of the COVID pandemic, both Makibaz and Mkleo look towards the future with hopes of returning to their tournament travel plans.