Meet Mono, tournament organizer, eSports company founder, pillar of Puerto Rico's FGC and badass F.A.N.G player

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • February 7, 2017 at 7:54 p.m. PST

Meet Mono, a tournament organizer, eSports company founder, pillar of Puerto Rico's FGC and badass F.A.N.G player It's no secret that F.A.N.G is not an easy character to win with in Street Fighter 5, especially when he seemingly fell lower on the tier list after the Season 2 update, but Ricardo "ESPR|Mono" Roman Ithier still grinds (and wins) with him.

Oh, and he also finds the time to be a key figure in the Puerto Rico fighting game scene, running the First Attack yearly major and traveling to promote his brand and scene.

ESPR stands for Electronic Sports Puerto Rico, the eSports company through which most PR major events are hosted. He runs that too, along with a few other backbone organizers of the PR eSports scene. On top of that, he has a day job with the PR Department of State.

One of the busiest men in the FGC and yet he was able to win StreamMe's Savage Series online, four tournament event and earn a free trip to EVO 2017. Check out this slick sequence against SD Pnoy from Savage Series:

Click image for animated version

We caught up with Mono to talk Street Fighter 5, F.A.N.G and being a jack of all trades, and he had plenty to share with us.

Raptor: For those that aren't as familiar with you as a player, can you give us just a little bit of your fighting game background? How long you've been playing, your biggest personal achievement(s) etc?

Mono: Well, I've been playing fighting games since 2003, started with Soul Calibur 2 and 3rd strike and kept on through since I developed a passion for fighting games. Began to travel a bit more when SF4 came out using Bison mostly and am a bit of a lab monster, since I've spent a lot of time doing tutorials and the Shadaloo boot camp series which got a bit of traction last year.

I am also the owner and one of the lead organizers of First Attack Puerto Rico. My biggest achievement I would have to say is First Attack Puerto Rico. I always dreamed of Puerto Rico having a Major on the scale of most of the tournaments I visited and competed in and feel it kinda came true. Always been a competitor, but organizing is also a passion which sometimes create a bit of conflict when it comes to wanting to play or organize hahaha.

Raptor: You've taken the hard road in playing and staying with F.A.N.G. What about the character has made you play and stick with him?

Mono: Well I'll be honest, I've always seemed to stick to characters I find enjoyable or that fit my play style. in SF4 I played Dictator in all 5 iterations, and only near the end of USF4 had I started to use Poison, just to counter Guile.

Personally I like F.A.N.G.'s play style, even though many would see him as a zoner, i use him a bit more offensive, because I feel he can build a lot of momentum at times. And at first I picked him cause he was the closes thing to Urien before he came out later in September last year. Maybe he's the poor man's Urien, but I find to have a lot of fun finding setups for many scenarios. I always like being on the move.

Mono's "heart attack match" from Savage Series:

Raptor: Word on the street is that he didn't get much better in Season 2 despite being pretty low tier in Season 1, do you agree?

Mono: Well that I can agree with. When Season 2 came out, I wasn't too happy with F.A.N.G. and ranted a bit on Twitter. I feel that slowing down many of his normals was a bit harsh. I was okay with maybe a few of them being slower, like, but being 7f (six frames in S1) and being 14 frames (12 frames in S1) were a pretty big blow in my opinion.

Now he can't really punish a lot of things from far range since many things, including overheads, (which got a general nerf across the board) turned into -6 and F.A.N.G can't punish easily unless point blank with, and Landing a jumping combo into is way too inconsistent in S2 due to the slow startup.

I did like some buffs, especially the Senpukuga (Coward Crouch) auto-correct buff. This opened way too many doors for continuous pressure. Meaty st.lp into st.hp, definitely something I won't complain about either. Not needing to charge in V-Trigger, though good, is something I haven't really seen any of the F.A.N.G. players take much advantage of it.

Ryobenda lasting longer helped a bit for newer mix ups. One of F.A.N.G.'s biggest buffs was actually the changes to the game mechanics, slower grey life recovery, and no invincible DP's. This made F.A.N.G.'s offense even better and now he doesn't have to guess too much on wake up.

The problem was that he did little damage in S1 so he had to guess too much. The risk vs. reward for some characters was worth it when playing against F.A.N.G, so people would DP because, why not?

Raptor: Where does F.A.N.G land on the tier chart? What adjustments do you feel he needs to be more of a competitor in SF5?

Mono: In Season 1 I actually did not feel he was bottom three. He needed work, but he was manageable. In Season 2 however, slower normals did set him back a bit and I feel he's a bit worse than before since he gets nothing off of a low attack.

In Season 1 he had meaty or counter hit into, and he lost that in S2. That to me is one of the painful nerfs because it's hard to open people up. I feel fang should have some of the following buffs. Not all of them maybe, but to choose between the options provided:

- Either revert back to six frames OR add one more frame of advantage to so that he can have into on counter hit or meaty.
- Revert to 12 frames.
- Different trajectories on EX Nishikyus depending on punch button combinations.
- Less recovery on V-Trigger activation. I feel it would be helpful if he could do something similar to Guile, Necalli, Balrog, Alex, where you could do st.lp, activate and then link into a I feel it wouldn't be too big of a buff and would at least get him to convert something off of lights, since setting up meaty st.lp into fierce is quite specific.
- Make Ex Sotoja (sleeves) two frames faster in order for him to get something off of light attacks into poison OR make him be able to combo lights into light Ryobenda.
- Would like it if F.A.N.G had unique properties in V-Trigger with regards to combos. Some character like Necalli and Bison have changes on their frame data. It feels like his VT doesn't really represent a real threat when activated. they buffed Bison's scissor kick start up in VT so that he could combo light scissors from so I think, "Why can't F.A.N.G have the same too then?"

Raptor: Who are F.A.N.G's best and worst match ups and why?

Mono: F.A.N.G's worst match ups still remain somewhat the same as he still has trouble dealing with Cammy and Guile. Though I have to admit Necalli, Ken and Mika got a bit easier to deal with, especially Necalli. I feel no invincible DP in that match made it better for F.A.N.G. I also feel that Dhalsim is harder to beat in Season 2.

Balrog I still feel is favorable but more tedious than before due to the buffs Rog received and the slower normals F.A.N.G has now. F.A.N.G doesn't have that many favorable match ups, and the changes in S2 didn't do much to help this.

Mono takes out Perfect Legend. Courtesy of Contém Games:

Click image for animated version

Raptor: How are you liking SF5 right now? Do you have any positive or negative feelings about it as a competitor? If any negative, what would you change about it?

Mono: I personally like SFV. I like the offensive style of the game, and one of my favorite games is 3rd strike, so I kinda feel a bit more at home with SF5's mechanics. I do feel it needs a few adjustments. The input delay being one of the things I would suggest be fixed.

I do feel invincible DP's, though it'd be unfavorable for F.A.N.G, should be brought back. There's so much risk involved already on a blocked DP, so not giving it invincibility is harsh. If anything, make them invincible after the 1st frame, so that characters have to land a perfect meaty in order to interrupt. Some characters have setups that cover all three options and interrupt wake-up DP's, and I feel that's a bit too much.

Oh and add Q and Twelve to SF5.

Raptor: You won the Savage Series online tournament series and earned yourself a trip to EVO 2017, how legitimate do you feel online events are compared to traditional events at this point in time for the FGC?

Mono: I actually enjoyed the setting, because I feel its a way to attract many players how are still skeptical on whether to travel to tournaments based on how they feel their skill level matches up. I had players from Puerto Rico who participated in this event and gave good feedback, and actually felt more confident when they saw that they did well in the tournament setting.

Although netcode isn't perfect, I've been able to play with many people from the U.S. like Dieminion, Liquid|Nuckledu and LU|Alex Valle and connections run smooth. Reacting to things can prove to be more difficult online, but I feel the online tournament setting will actually help bring in more players and give a taste of the competitive scene, maybe build confidence for them to travel to physical events in the future.

Raptor: Anything else you'd like to add? Shout outs?

Mono: Would like to thank, Alex Valle and the Level Up Series team for these online events and for creating this opportunity for players show their skills and get exposure. I myself saw a few players I didn't know about killing it at Savage Series and felt it was nice to see.

Well next week we have a tournament in Puerto Rico, Winter Clash 2017, in which we will have PIE|Smug, Kami, Marlinpie, Lord Knight, DR Ray and Caba in attendance, so it should be a good event to keep an eye out on stream. Also a First Attack 2017 announcement will come out soon, so also giving a heads up about that ;)

Buff F.A.N.G please, lol.

A big thank you to Mono for taking the time to talk with us. Follow him on Twitter and check out his YouTube channel for impressive F.A.N.G action and GamersGrid TV for tutorials. Photo via Chris Bahn.
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