C9 Fudge on Rekindling His Passion for League in 2023: ‘The Idea of Being a Middle-Tier Player Destroys My Ego’

Cloud9 are in a good spot to defend their LCS title. Five weeks into the 2023 LCS Spring Split, C9 are 8-3, good for second place, and only two games behind FlyQuest. A good portion of C9’s success is due to the continued excellence of AD carry Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol and support Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, who have taken the lane-focused, bot-centric state of the current meta as an opportunity to lead the team to victory, much like they did in the LCS Championship last summer.

Another major part of C9’s success, however, has been the stellar top lane play of Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami. After a disappointing Worlds 2022 performance that saw Fudge get skill-checked by Fnatic top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen, at-the-time EDward Gaming top laner Li “Flandre” Xuan-Jun, and T1 top laner Choi “Zeus” Woo-je, Fudge has returned to the LCS in dominant form—and he attributes it to a renewed focus on competition that evaded him for much of last year.

After a brief stint in the mid lane in the first half of 2022, Fudge returned to his main role for the summer. But the shift back to the top lane coincided with a shift in priorities for the Aussie.

“I started to be more social and stopped playing the game as much as I did before, and I stopped focusing on the game as much as I did before,” Fudge told Dot Esports in week two of the 2023 LCS Spring Split. “I think that definitely showed in my performance at Worlds, I didn’t feel like my laning was nearly as good as it was previously internationally. I think that even at Worlds 2021, I was laning a lot better than I was at Worlds 2022. And I don’t think that’s necessarily because of the competition, I think it’s mostly because of my lack of focus.”

Despite Fudge’s lack of focus, C9 still hoisted the trophy at the end of the 2022 LCS Championship. But after his rough performance at Worlds 2022, he experienced a “reality check” that was catalyzed by an offseason trip home. “I had to go back to Australia no matter what for my visa interview,” Fudge said. “But I was planning on going back anyway because I hadn’t gone in three years. I hadn’t seen my family since the pandemic because I didn’t want to go back and risk not getting out of Australia because of the really heavy COVID restrictions.”

Upon returning home, Fudge stayed away from League of Legends completely for the first time in years and prioritized spending time with family and friends, which served as a much-needed mental reset. “I have relationships back in Australia that I still really enjoy with people that still care about me,” the C9 top laner said. “Even though I hadn’t seen them in many years, they still really care about me.”

The life of a professional League player is one that, even outside of competitive matches, revolves entirely around the game: scrims, self-practice, and thinking about the game in every waking moment are a requirement for those competing at the highest level. A full month away from that mindset during the offseason gave Fudge the clarity to reassess his priorities.

“I realized that if I continue to not care about the game, I’m just going to be a middle-tier player. And I don’t want to be that. The idea of being a middle-tier player destroys my ego,” Fudge said.

After a month off, Fudge began playing League again in December 2022 with a refined focus and a more rigorous work ethic, which has only ramped up since the season started and he returned to L.A. to be with his teammates on C9. “We have 12-hour days every single scrim day, which is four of the days of the week,” Fudge said with a chuckle. “I’m definitely enjoying the grind.”

And the grind is paying off. Fudge has the most kills of any top laner in the 2023 LCS Spring Split at 41, as well as the least deaths at 19, according to League stats site Oracle’s Elixir. At 74 assists, FlyQuest top laner Jeong “Impact” Eon-Young has more assists than Fudge’s 72, and even then, Fudge’s 5.9 KDA is a whole point ahead of Impact’s KDA. Fudge often plays a conservative laning phase but takes over when C9 begin to group up, as indicated by his top lane-leading 68.1 percent kill participation. His 575 damage per minute is second only to the 577 DPM of Team Liquid top laner Park “Summit” Woo-tae.

In a ranking during week five of the 2023 LCS Spring Split that featured Joshua “Jatt” Leesman, Barento “Raz” Mohammed, Emily Rand, and Mark “MarkZ” Zimmerman, all four of the broadcast analysts had Fudge as their best top laner in the league.

Fudge didn’t waste any time reminding the LCS of his elite ability. He earned Player of the Week honors in the first week of the Spring Split with two wins on K’Sante and has continued to be the best top laner in North America. “I think that it’s very clear that it’s back to like it was in the summer of 2021 where I was clearly better than most of the top laners,” Fudge said. “In 2022, I didn’t really feel that way.”

Now that he’s fully tapped back into how much focus he needs to put into League, the veteran C9 top laner is making sure he’s maintaining a healthy balance of the various aspects of his life. “I’m not saying I will completely ‘no-life’ the game because, for my mental health, I don’t think I can do that,” Fudge admitted. “But I do feel I’m at a much better balance now in my career, and I definitely intend to keep it that way for the rest of the year—and the rest of my career, ideally.”

C9’s next matches in the 2023 LCS Spring Split are against 100 Thieves on Thursday, March 2, and Dignitas on Friday, March 3. Both teams are below C9 in the standings, and a 2-0 week would certainly help the defending LCS champions in their bid to wrestle the top spot from the iron grip of FlyQuest.

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