Mike Tyson Learns That Street Fighter 2’s Balrog Was Based on Him

Mike Tyson just learned about a strange part of gaming history that connects him to Street Fighter.

Mike Tyson recently appeared on ESPN for an interview/game of Mario Kart 8. It was then that he apparently heard for the first time that the popular Street Fighter character Balrog was actually based on him. 

Allow us to do a little historical housekeeping about this story. When Street Fighter II was released in Japan, some of the characters had different names than in the Western version of the game we eventually got. For instance, the character we know as M. Bison was called Vega and the character we know as Vega was named Balrog. So what was Balrog’s name? Well, it was actually M. Bison. 

As you’ve probably gathered, Balrog’s design and original name of M. Bison was a direct reference to Mike Tyson. However, Capcom feared that they might have a lawsuit on their hands if they released a character modeled after Mike Tyson with the name M. Bison in the West. As such, they did a little name swapping. 

Well, Tyson went years without knowing this character existed much less that the original design and name were based on him. While he seemingly joked about having a lawsuit on his hands, he did say that he was “honored with that impersonation of me.”

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Interestingly, Mike Tyson does have a history with games that use his likeness. As many of you probably know, the original version of Punch-Out was called Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and featured Tyson as one of the most difficult final bosses in video game history. Nintendo later removed Tyson from the game when the deal ran out, and Tyson has since expressed his displeasure that Nintendo never contacted him about it again for new games. 

In a hilarious Tyson appropriate twist, though, it turns out that Mike Tyson had heard about the Street Fighter swap before and seemingly forgot about it or failed to mention it. Kotaku found a clip from a podcast Tyson was on in April in which someone tells him about the Tyson and Bison connection. 

Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014