Several weeks after leaving his previous organization, Team Liquid, top Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada has joined multi-gaming organization NRG Esports. The deal with NRG comes after the team actively polled and communicated with the Smash community in search of a player to represent its organization.
"Nairo represents a big step forward for NRG into the fighting game arena," NRG chairman and Sacramento Kings co-owner Andy Miller tells ESPN.com. "He is a carefully chosen first player that we feel will build the foundation for NRG's fighting game presence for years to come. He is an amazing competitor and a huge personality, so he should fit right in with the NRG family."
Nairo initially left Team Liquid on Aug. 16 and instantly became one of the most desired free-agents in the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U market. Nairo says his desire to leave Liquid came after he felt that Liquid wasn't going in the direction that he thought his career should go.
"As I learned more about esports, I thought that maybe I could find a team that suited me as a player a bit better," Nairo told ESPN.com about ending his deal with Team Liquid. So after my contract ended, my manager sent out some notices to other organizations. We started by looking at teams who really functioned as one true unit, and not just as teams playing different games who wore the same banner. I wanted teammates."
Over the past year and a half, he's had top eight finishes at some of the biggest tournaments in the world, and was responsible for ending Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios's 56-tournament winning streak last October. Nairo also has a popular stream on Twitch, something that is rare among top players.
He says that NRG wasn't the only organization to approach him, and that he had something in the works with another team before NRG contacted him. While Nairo did not confirm which team, it's been speculated by some of the community's most prominent members that Nairo was set to join Luminosity Gaming.
"[Joining NRG] was half luck honestly," he says. "I already had a deal in place. A contract was supposed to be sent over from another organization, but travel plans for the team's head had caused a few delays. In the end, there were three organizations I was really leaning towards. What sold me on NRG was the idea that they're not looking to pick up a million players. They want to go into a few scenes, find people who they think have the passion to bring esports to the next level and put them into the same family."
Nairo says that after joining NRG, he hopes to continue to improve and win more. He says that prior to his recent first place at major event Super Smash Con, his mentality was in the dumps. But that flipped when he won Super Smash Con:
"Winning that tournament became extremely important to me," he says. "Immediately I started playing harder, thinking faster than my opponents again, and streaming with a better attitude. I feel more like myself, which might surprise all the people who will continue sleeping on me."
Nairo is NRG's first fighting game player and will join the team after Miller actively went on both his personal and company Twitter, as well as in an interview with the Video Game Bang podcast, to seek insight from the community as to which free agents were worth signing. Amid his pursuit, Nairo became a free agent, with Miller and crew working out a deal with the player.
Prior to expanding to Smash Bros., NRG founded League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch teams; the squad purchased Team Coast's League Championship Series spot in Nov. 2015 for a reported $1.4 million, and acquired Counter-Strike and Overwatch teams through 2016.
The team is best known for its line of investors, which include Sacramento Kings co-owners, former Apple iAD chief Miller and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, as well as former Los Angeles Lakers and NBA Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal, former New York Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez, and former Chicago White Sox shortstop Jimmy Rollins.