Derek “iDom” Ruffin is one of competitive Street Fighter’s greatest Cinderella stories. Forged in the fires of New York’s famously strong talent pool, iDom transformed from a heartbroken newbie to Capcom Cup champion, shocking fans worldwide in a tear-jerking victory that rocked the fighting game scene to its core.
Who is iDom?
While he may be hailed as the Capcom Pro Tour’s strongest Street Fighter V player, he wasn’t always at the top of the standings. Like many fighting game pros, Ruffin had to begin his journey to stardom somewhere; but rather than passing by a Third Strike arcade cabinet or coming across tournament VODs online, this player got his start due to the aftermath of a painful breakup.
Using fighting games as a “gateway or relaxation” to take his mind off the pain, iDom subsequently tested his skills at a local tournament and was promptly “washed.” This didn’t stop him from continuing his path, though, eventually making a huge name for himself at New York’s Next Level Battle Circuit. Famous for turning out such talent as the one and only “Sonic Fox,” Victor “Punk” Woodley, and other top pros, NLBC is hailed as one of the most difficult local tournaments in the United States — and iDom made it his own in a short time.
Laura and the Street Fighter League
iDom quickly became renowned for his top-tier Laura play and subsequent back-to-back tournament wins at NLBC. Regularly defeating opponents like Sean “Shine” Simpson, Andrew “Kami” Armstead, and more, Ruffin was often subjected to queries from fans and commentators as to why he never took his prowess worldwide. Citing his studies and a general distaste for flying as part of his reasons, fans wouldn’t see iDom make his worldwide debut until 2019, when he also starred in the very first season of the Street Fighter League.
As part of the League, iDom’s die-hard character loyalty quickly became a debilitating issue, with the opposing team nearly always choosing to ban his indomitable Laura to cripple the East Coast pro. Although his costume choices might have fans thinking otherwise, Ruffin initially chose the Matsuda jiu-jitsu practitioner for her high damage output and impressive mixup game — and his results bore the weight of their long-lasting relationship.
“When picking characters in most fighting games, I tend to pick characters that do a lot of damage,” he explained. “So when the game came out, I thought that she looked interesting to play, and she did a lot of damage. The mixups were an added bonus.”
“Can’t start the show without the star, right?”
Despite the Street Fighter League’s character ban clause, iDom failed to pick up a solid secondary fighter, largely because no other characters interested him. Thus, the player continued his path as a primary Laura main — until the release of Season Four and the introduction of Street Fighter returnee Poison.
With Poison having been part of the Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter x Tekken series, iDom had already given the Mad Gear gal a whirl, and took an interest in her unique abilities for SFV. “The reason I started playing Poison was I used her for awhile in Ultra Street Fighter IV, and I saw potential in the character,” he recalled. “I really enjoy seeing characters that aren’t picked often, but some characters I think aren’t that good, I try to stay away from.”
Luckily, Poison proved to be a solid pick for the pro, who began to use her in place of Laura to circumvent the Street Fighter League’s character ban clause. Because of this move, iDom boasted a terrifying secondary fighter in the whip-wielding gangster, who he says offers a solid alternative to Laura’s weaker matchups and differing playstyles.
“Poison’s playstyle is how I’m used to playing fighting games,” he claimed. “When I got SFV, that was actually the first time I think I used a character with a command grab. Poison’s playstyle is good for when I’m going against a character I feel like I can control, and can make people play at my pace. Laura is good for making people feel uncomfortable and panic. I think Laura is good for characters without ways around thunderclap pressure like Boxer and Alex, and Poison is good for characters I can keep in control, like Cody, Laura, and Gief. I think it helps that I play two different styles of characters, because it helps me understand the mindset of both types of players.”
iDom becomes Capcom Cup champion
He began to use Poison at tournaments throughout the rest of the year, including his notable performance at First Attack 2019, where he scored a seat in the Premier Event’s Top 8 bracket with the character. However, that wasn’t the last time fans would see his secondary pick, and on an even grander stage: iDom, who began his journey from heartbreak, worked his way to Capcom Cup’s Grand Final in the game’s most critical competition of the season.
Standing against longtime rival and training partner Punk, the 2019 CPT Grand Final was truly anyone’s game. Punk, having made a jaw-dropping comeback after his breakout 2017 season, and iDom, surprising everyone with his death-defying winstreak, were hailed as some of America’s finest Street Fighter pros. With both players possessing an intimate knowledge of each other’s playstyles, there was no telling who would come out on top in this battle between East Coast brothers.
Their battle came down to the wire in what could have been a series-winning game for Punk. Having taken two games from iDom already, his opponent made a venue-crashing comeback, resetting the bracket 3-2 to score a second chance at victory. While he’d opted for Laura throughout his Grand Final run, iDom switched to Poison in their final game, after Punk interrupted his two-game winstreak using Karin. Ruffin’s shocking character change resulted in his meteoric victory, seeing NLBC’s finest take the one and only Capcom Cup — with a brand-new character, to boot.
“Honestly, going into Grand Finals, I already had the decision to play Poison, but then [Punk] picked Cammy,” iDom said of their fight. “In Winners’ Finals, I felt Poison did well, but the first game I played with Laura, I got smoked. So, I just thought, ‘There are two games left and I have to win one with Poison. It can’t be that hard.’”
The future of Poison in SFV
Needless to say, iDom’s monumental win spurred a rush of labbing with Street Fighter’s new addition, and many players chose to pick up the character in wake of her unexpected victory — something iDom is enthusiastic about. In fact, the champ doesn’t believe that Poison even needs a secondary for potential backup, citing her recent buffs in Champion Edition as evidence of this claim.
“I think it’s good to have more people playing Poison,” he said. “I’m always eager to learn new things from people playing her. I feel like a lot of her buffs made people want to switch to her. I always thought balance patches were like stocks, and you try to guess which characters will get buffs or nerfs. I thought Poison would get buffed from season four to five, and I was right. I think she is a good choice this season, and I don’t think she needs a secondary to back her up — but I think a lot of characters are good this season.”
As for iDom, he’s currently spending his time “just trying to play some video games” and “keep improving.” Beginning as a staunch character loyalist, this top player found victory in an unanticipated newcoming fighter — all thanks to the Street Fighter League, which will see his return in its third season as captain of Team All-In. Considering his elite status as Capcom Cup champion and boasting a new character in Poison, there’s no doubt that iDom’s already illustrious career is just getting started.