We continue our Community Spotlights with the Can Opener Series, a weekly online event hosted by Evo 2007 Marvel vs. Capcom 2 Champion Michael "Yipes" Mendoza and longtime friend and fellow commentator Francis "Lee Chung" Lee Chong. We spoke with Yipes to learn about the history of the Can Opener Series, his friendship and professional growth with Lee Chung, and how the energy of the past can live on in a place where old-school and new-school fighting game players can learn and grow together.

“Can opener is just a combination of me and Lee Chung being your old dusty uncles on the couch talking about good-ass matches that are right on your screen,” said Yipes. “Then obviously, “can opener” is a metaphor because it represents bad defense and good offense at the same time. So when you get opened up in a situation with a combo or mix-up, you’re gettin' ya canned opened up, homie.”

Can Opener also references Yipes’ iconic commentary from the 2007 Seasons Beatings II Marvel vs. Capcom 2 tournament. “Where yo curleh mustache at?” became a phenomenon throughout the FGC. In creating the Can Opener Series, Yipes and Lee Chong call back to the undeniable comradery in the FGC at that time. Together, they built something new to carry that legacy of fun, excitement, and good old-fashioned fighting game competition.

Yipes and Lee Chung met back in 2010 around the launch of Super Street Fighter IV. The two would play together at the Empire Arcadia headquarters, The Arc. The two became fast friends and have grown within the FGC together by commentating at Evo events, Capcom Pro Tours, and more.

“A lot of people don't know this, but the first person I ever really commentated with besides Chris Matrix was Lee Chung,” said Yipes. “The first official time we got on a microphone together and really commentated was one of the battlefield Arcadia tournaments. It was so organic.”

A familiar theme for our Community Spotlights so far is that COVID-19 was a driving factor that inspired their creation. Until COVID-19 made its impact in 2020, Yipes had been a constant force in the FGC. After over seventeen years of commitment to fighting games, Yipes was forced to take a break. During this time, he expanded upon his interests in other genres, but it didn’t take long for the call of the FGC to bring him back.

“I really wasn't in tune with fighting games. I did some gigs here and there, but the thing missing was me commentating with my homie, Lee Chung,” said Yipes. “So, you know, we just got together, we was like, ‘Yo, you know what, just so we could keep that tradition alive, we're going to start our own tournament series.’”

The Can Opener Series began on April 21, 2021. Since then, Yipes and Lee Chung held 108 Can Opener events. Players can expect a new Can Opener Series every Tuesday with various possible titles to compete in. You might not even know the featured titles until the day of the event, but like a new can of your favorite brand of chips, you know you’re in for a good time, no matter the flavor.

“It all depends on the mood. Like, me and Lee Chung one time, we could just wake up in the morning like, ‘Yo, man, you want to do 3rd Strike?’ We’d just do 3rd Strike,” said Yipes. “We did that one time, which was pretty cool. We raised $3,000 in the pot for that, which is kind of crazy. And we had like 50 entrants, but it was all killers.”

Over the years, Can Opener has run events for various recent games like Street Fighter 6, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, Guilty Gear -Strive-, and DNF Duel. Classics like Super Gem Fighter and Cyberbots get their time to shine. While the lineup is integral to any event, watching the players compete and their growth is most important to Yipes.

“I be seeing folks that come in the tournament like Razzo and Umisho, for example. The first time I had seen them play was in the Can Opener. They were stepping up gradually. They're ridiculous now. They're like some of the best in the world. But that's the joy I get from Can Opener. I always see everybody stepping their game up.”

While Can Opener’s roots are in fighting games, Yipes has hopes to broaden the horizons into other avenues. Fashion, music, and art would intertwine in a single offline Can Opener Festival. It will take time and effort, but the Can Opener crew aren’t strangers to dedicating themselves to their passions.

“I want to do something completely different that nobody else has done,” said Yipes. “Music performances live. Fashion runway shows. Me and my squad are aiming for the sky with something like this. I feel like Can Opener is the bridge to it.”

Until then, Yipes is happy with where the Can Opener series is currently. Yipes believes the Can Opener Series can be an ideal place for old-school and new-school fighting game players and philosophies to come together. He feels it is his way of giving back to those who don’t have access to the in-person community that came along with the arcade era he experienced when he first started playing fighting games. Thanks to modern gaming technologies like dedicated lobbies and rollback netcode, people from all walks of life from any distance can come together and share their fighting game experience in a way impossible in the arcades.

“It makes my job easier to show that love for fighting games that I had growing up in the arcade scene. I just love seeing the young bucks coming up and killing it because that reminds me of myself. I always want to be a little percentage of the great times that they have in memories and the FGC.”

Want to learn more about the Can Opener Series? Follow their official Twitter account and check out the weekly events they hold online every Tuesday.