While Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has become the global face of Fortnite to the masses, a new player ascended to become the figurehead of its competitive scene in 2019.
Bugha, 16, is arguably the breakout esports star of the year, winning Fortnite’s first ever world cup and quickly achieving the kind of crossover fame very few players have managed.
While Fortnite’s first jump into esports may not have initially blown up like Epic Games hoped, Bugha’s ascent is the success story they’ll cling to for many seasons to come. Here’s the lowdown on his journey in 2019.
Born 30 December 2002 in Pennsylvania, US, Bugha played Fortnite from the game’s original release on 21 July 2017. He found exposure as a Fortnite competitive player through gameplay montages on his YouTube channel. As attention around Fortnite’s entry into the competitive scene took off, notoriety around his skills grew too in January 2019.
On March 25, Bugha joined Los Angeles-based esports organisation Sentinels on their Fortnite roster. He joined many of his past teammates on the team, having competed with Nick “Aspect” McGuire and Owen “Animal” Wright in prior tournaments. His duos partner was also Cayden “Carose” Bradford who had signed up too.
Bugha lifting the Fortnite World Cup trophy (Picture: Getty)
On April 24, Bugha officially qualified for the Fortnite World Cup Solo finals after emerging victorious at the World Cup Online Open Week one for North America East. He achieved the top prize of $4,000 after scoring 69 points, narrowly beating runner-up Daniel “Dubs” Paul Walsh.
This was followed by a squad victory, with Animal and Aspect, at the Trio Cash Cup on 21 July 2019. They trounced the competition too, beating the runner-up squad with 121 points to their 108 points.
It was a strong sign for what was to come at the Fortnite World Cup, which took place merely a week later after this win.
Fortnite World Cup victory
Taking place from 26-28 July, the first ever Fortnite World Cup took place at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York. The three-day sold-out event was attended by 19,000 fans, and featured a $30 million prize pool spread across a Creative competition, Duos and Solos.
Competing in the latter, Bugha asserted his dominance quickly across the six games. After winning the first, he remained top of the leaderboard across the entirety. The only hiccup came in the second game, where Bugha was eliminated very early into the match.
However, it wasn’t enough of a slip for other players to claw back. By the end, Bugha had almost doubled the point total of second place player, Harrison “Psalm” Chang.
Bugha won the Fortnite World Cup with 59 points, taking home a prize of $3 million.
Speaking about his victory afterwards, Bugha said: ‘Words cannot explain it right now. I’m just so happy. Everything I’ve done, all the grind, it’s paid off. It’s just insane.”
Fame and attention
Bugha’s first brush with the ramifications of worldwide fame arrived on a downbeat note. Shortly after winning the cup, his Twitter and Twitch accounts were hacked – with random messages cropping up on his account. The hacker also tried to attract followers to their account through his Twitch.
Once this subsided, however, Bugha had the world’s media waiting for him. He made appearances across US chat shows Today and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon – who lapped up the cross-section between Fortnite’s popularity and a 16-year-old winning a life-changing amount of cash.
Since then, Bugha was named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Games list. He also received two huge gongs at the Esports Awards 2019 in November, winning Esports PC Rookie Of The Year and Esports PC Player Of The Year.
His subsequent fame has also led to more troubling spots in the limelight, after being the target of a fake crime report to police. While streaming on Twitch, Bugha’s home was “swatted” by police over claims of a shooting – which he addressed when he returned to his live feed and teammates.
“That is definitely a new one,” Bugha said via a Twitch clip. “I got swatted. They came in with guns, that was scary. What if I just got popped?”
Since winning the world cup, Bugha has competed in numerous tournaments in a squad with Josef “stretch” and Shawn “clarityG” Washington.
While details of the next Fortnite World Cup have yet to be released, it’s looking likely Bugha will continue to have a huge part to play in the action.
You can check out a documentary released by Epic Games below of his journey so far.