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Although the King of Fighters XV Evo 2022 champion Chia-Chen “ZJZ” Tseng almost had a spotless record on his dominant title run, he almost wasn’t even on the stage at all. It took a fundraiser for the best KoF player in the world to even attend Evo; once they squared away the money, he and the rest of Taiwan’s best raised their region’s banner as Taiwan is still the capital of the KoF world.

“Seeing the entire Top 3 being Taiwanese made me really happy,” ZJZ said

ZJZ entered the tournament as the clear favorite, as the number one seed, but with a lack of a real sponsor, the player almost missed out on the trip across the world. Trying to prove he is the best player globally, he wanted to see how he matched up with the best players overseas.

“The South American and Mexican players use different characters than what the Asian players use,” ZJZ said. “Each meta has its difficulty but personally I like playing against different characters instead of the same characters over and over again”

Even though he enjoyed playing against different players, when it came time for Top 8, it was all too familiar for him. After taking down “Lucid” in Winners Semifinals, he matched up with Chen “XiaoHeyTW” Sui Yang in Winners Finals. Despite being just the 15th seed, XiaoHeyTW made a name for himself. Ironically, it was ZJZ who suggested he come overseas in the first place.

“All the local players know how good he is,” ZJZ said “seeing him in Top 8 was not surprising.”

After taking down XiaoHeyTW, ZJZ sat in winners side of Grand Finals waiting to see the losers bracket unfold. And as the field whittled down, the KoF XV Top 3 turned into a glorified local with all three remaining players reigning from Taiwan. But in Grand Finals, XiaoHeyTW wasn’t ZJZ’s opponent, instead, ZJZ faced off against Lin “E.T.” Chiahung, the player who won the last King of Fighters tournament at Evo 2017. But five years later, the game had a new world champion but still from the same region. When asked what’s next, ZJZ said he just wants to avoid nearly missing events like this in the future.

“After winning this event, I hope to land a long-term sponsor,” ZJZ said.