Street Fighter V pro Bryant "Smug" Huggins has signed a six-month agreement to join multi-game esports team Rise Nation, which is co-owned by Los Angeles Rams guard Rodger Saffold, the team announced on Thursday.
Smug will compete in Rise Nation uniform for the first time at the Evolution Championship Series, the world's largest fighting game tournament, which runs July 14-16.
"Besides the most obvious [reason] being his success, Smug has all of the personal qualities of someone who we want to represent our organization," Rise Nation co-owner Kahreem Horsley told ESPN. "He is extremely active when it comes to connecting with his followers on social media and he is one of the most entertaining people I have met. With his talent in game and his personality away from it, Smug has the ability to become one of the most recognizable names in all of esports."
Smug joins the team following his rise within the fighting game community over the past six months, including a breakthrough first-place finish at the SXSW Conference Fighters Underground tournament in March. Additionally, he competed at the ELeague Street Fighter V Invitational in April, which was televised on TBS.
Smug has most recently taken third and fourth respectively at Capcom Pro Tour premier events Combo Breaker and Community Effort Orlando, earning a collective of 360 points from those two events, and currently sits 14th globally and sixth in North America in the pro tour rankings. Given his current performance, he is on track to qualify for his first Capcom Cup in the fall.
Adding him to its roster, Rise Nation now has a three fighting game players, including Martin "Marn" Phan and Saul Leonardo "MenaRD" Mena Segundo, both of which signed within the past four months.
Prior to expanding to fighting games, Rise Nation -- which was founded in 2014 by Horlsey and Saffold -- predominantly worked in the Call of Duty space. The signing of Smug illustrates growing confidence in the future of the fighting game community and its burgeoning esports scene.
"The [fighting game community] has always had a cult following and is just beginning to receive the exposure it deserves," Horlsey explained. "As an organization that has notoriety throughout multiple esports scenes, Rise Nation would love to help this community grow and continue to see success."