Coming back to Los Angeles after a historic weekend at Dallas was bittersweet for Dylan "aKm" Bignet. The roaring Dallas fans gave him and the Fuel energy into a 2-0 weekend. That momentum was carried into the final week of Stage 2, where the Fuel is in a good position to qualify for the Stage 2 playoffs since Stage 4 of the inaugural season.
Following their victory against the Florida Mayhem, the Dallas Fuel stood at 6th place waiting who they will face in the first round. aKm spoke with Inven Global about the experience with the Dallas homestand, his thoughts on the crowd booing, and the Stage 2 playoffs.
Let's go back in time to last week at Dallas. Tell me about your experience last week from landing in Dallas to being in the arena.
It was amazing. One of the, if not, the best memory of my career playing in front of 4,500 people cheering for you. I think everyone can pretty much say the same — it was such a great experience for us as players. For moments like these, you're playing at home and the crowd is cheering loud. Hopefully, we get to do that a lot more next season.
What kind of things did you do in Dallas before your games last week?
We tried to stick to our regular schedule because we still had games to play. Even though it was cool to be in Dallas and stuff, we still had games to focus on so we tried to stay on our regular schedule. We also had media stuff on top of it, so it was really busy.
How was fan interaction throughout that weekend?
I think it's great. Like it's always great to meet people that support you online. Being able to meet them and tell them how thankful we are for cheering for us. They tell us we are their idols and it felt like a huge thing for us because it is the fans that push us to do what we want to do. I think it's always great to meet fans.
Was there one particular moment that you remembered in the entire weekend?
I think the winning moment against the Outlaws when we huddled up with the whole staff and team. OGE and uNKOE started crying — I actually never seen uNKOE cry so it was a first for me and I've known him for many years. It was a very emotional experience and very thankful for all the crowd that screamed our names. It was the best highlight of the week.
How can you describe the differences between playing in the Blizzard Arena and in Dallas?
I mean for us, we don't really have a crowd here [in the Blizzard Arena]. We're not at home so it's a big difference going from about 700 people here maximum that's not really cheering for you to a 4,500 crowd with everyone cheering for you. The Dallas fans are usually what I hear when playing in France. It's something you can never get used to when you play in front of such a big crowd. You never get used to it, you are always going to be amazed by it.
How nervous were you heading into that arena last week?
I'm not going to say I'm old, but I am an experienced player since I played in front of big crowds. I tried to keep the team together, get them focused, and keep their nerves away. I don't get nervous anymore since I've been doing this for many years. My job was to try to have the team not get nervous.
Was the Dallas crowd the loudest you've heard in your career?
It was the loudest I've played in front of. I would say the French crowd in the 2018 World Cup was really loud too even though it was like 1,500 people. But since the crowd in Dallas was huge, it was the loudest I've ever experienced.
How did the Dallas crowd affect the way you played?
I think it gave me and the team energy, motivation, adrenaline, and confidence going into the match. Every time we're doing something good, they were like screaming. We could feel the desk shaking and vibrating. We could hear all the cheering through the headset. It was great to see and hear all that.
Now that you've played in an arena where you had home-field advantage, how much do you think that advantage will help the Fuel out next season?
That's the thing about home-field advantage — games should have an advantage of playing at home. Hopefully, next season we see crowds as big as the one in Dallas.
Right after the games finished last week, there were some issues in social media where some people were outspoken about the crowd booing your opponents. What are your thoughts about that issue?
Actually, I don't think booing is a bad thing. I think it's creating storylines, it's creating rivalries. In esports, because it's already happening in sports, you need rivalries and storylines. You need things to look up to. For example, if it's a big rivalry because of the crowd booing the Outlaws, it's going to have people attached to that rivalry and people are always going to look forward to that match. I think it's good for esports and good for players because it's going to motivate us to go harder and better.
For me, I don't feel it's disrespectful — it opens up the home-field advantage having the crowd in our favor and getting into the opponent's heads even if it means booing them. I would find it disrespectful if the crowd is doing it after the match. However, If it's before the match, it's nothing. If it's a great game, then they deserve respect and in the end, every player respects each other. They didn't boo after the match so I don't think there is anything controversial.
If you were in the Outlaws' shoes last week with the crowd booing, what would go through your head?
I actually talked to Rawkus and he was like that the booing helped them in a way. When he heard that, he said that his team needs to shut them down, to quiet them, and to silence them. I think that's extra motivation for everybody that's playing away [from their home crowd].
Since the Fuel qualified for Stage 2 playoffs by beating the Mayhem, what are your thoughts about the upcoming playoffs?
It's very likely we play against the Los Angeles Gladiators in the first match. I think we actually have a good shot actually beating them if we play our game. We're going to work really hard in the upcoming week to prepare for the matches. We have to play better than we did today because we were very sloppy, very tired, and low energy. We're going to have like two days off and try to rest to come back even stronger. I think coming into the playoffs, we have a good shot at proving ourselves and can be one of the top teams.
Since you mentioned the Gladiators, is that the team you prefer going against heading into the playoffs?
I think we're going to end up top 6, and the top 3 is Titans, Gladiators, and Shock. You always want Gladiators instead of Titans and Shock since they are two best teams right now. We want to play against the Gladiators, obviously.
Do you have any words to say to the fans back in Dallas?
Like I've said before, I think we have the best fans in the league right now. We are so thankful for all of them. We are so thankful for the way they are pushing us to be better. Pretty much we are playing to our strengths to make them proud and I hope we're doing better right now by having a good stage and making it to stage playoffs. We're going as hard as we can just to win.