OpTic Gaming CEO Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez confirmed his organization’s Call of Duty League team, OpTic Texas, were in serious talks to acquire Amer “Pred” Zulbeari from the Seattle Surge ahead of the season’s second stage. And according to H3CZ, the negotiations between OpTic and the Surge were anything but smooth sailing.
While rumors had been swirling for the past month of OpTic’s pursuit of the superstar SMG player, this is the first time it has been confirmed on the record by a member of the organization. In a recent episode of The Process, a video series produced by OpTic that follows its competitive teams through their seasons similar to HBO’s Hard Knocks, H3CZ discussed his team’s desire to bring Zulbeari on board.
“We wanted to pick up Pred,” H3CZ said. “I mean, why wouldn’t we want to pick up Pred? Pred’s an explosive player. What ended up happening was that we reached out. We made what people are saying is the biggest buyout offer that has ever been.”
With the amount of investments that have been flowing into the Call of Duty League since its inception in 2019, it’s no surprise that a potential buyout for an MVP candidate would be the biggest in competitive CoD history. But despite the massive dollar amount OpTic were willing to pay, H3CZ said Seattle kept adjusting its price: “Typically, it is a very forward conversation that we had. When I spoke to the leadership team, business leadership team at Seattle Surge on a Friday, we were told one price. By Wednesday, that price had increased. So we met that price again. On Friday we met that price again after it went up a third time.”
OpTic are one of the biggest organizations in the North American gaming and esports community, so it is no surprise that they were willing to pony up to bring one of the game’s best players to their team. But according to H3CZ, despite OpTic’s attempts to meet Seattle’s increasing buyout amounts, the two organizations could not come to a deal.
“From the beginning, if they would have said something along the lines of ‘Hey, we think Pred is a franchise that we want to keep so there is no money that you can offer us that’s going to make a difference enough for us to make this move,’ then I would have understood and I would’ve said ‘you know what? I appreciate that. Thank you. I get it 100%,’” H3CZ said of Seattle’s decision makers. “But the fact that we sort of got tugged along for a week is what I don’t appreciate. I don’t do business that way and I am surprised that they do business like that.”
After weeks of speculation surrounding the OpTic roster, the team announced the signing of Cuyler “Huke” Garland, a world champion with the Dallas Empire in the 2020 season who most recently played with the Los Angeles Guerillas. With the signing, the saga is temporarily put to rest, but H3CZ knows an opportunity to add an elite talent was missed by the slimmest of margins.
“I think Pred would’ve fit well into our system. He wanted to join. That’s a fact. And everybody had agreed to everything and then at the last minute, the rug got pulled from under us,” H3CZ continued. “As much as I want to say ‘I understand,’ I just can’t bring myself to say that.”