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Ultimate Gaming League and Antares Gaming have teamed up to launch esports events in which professional gamers and influencers mix it up with former and current NFL stars and celebrities.

The league will support four franchises at the outset. Their names are Da Fam Gaming, Ochocinco Gaming, 4 Brothers Gaming, and Glitxh Gaming. But there’s an interesting twist to the esports matches.

For the first time, gaming teams can invite their millions of fans to join the team, not just watch the team, said Antares Gaming CEO Dushan Batrovic in an interview with GamesBeat. Once fans are selected to join, they will have an opportunity to showcase their content on a bigger stage and earn exclusive rewards such as gaming time with their favorite athletes and celebrities.

“The concept here is to unify gaming and pop culture,” Batrovic said. “That’s the core of what we are doing, and we are launching our first four teams.”

The launch of the franchises will culminate in a draft on Monday, December 21, where the captains of each team will pick members to their semi-pro gaming teams that will compete in ongoing seasons of Call of Duty, NBA 2K, Madden NFL and FIFA. The teams will bring influencers into the mix, helping to spread the word as they spar with the pros and the celebrities and athletes. While the athletes may or may not be as good as the esports pros, they can certainly help the league generate huge audiences, Batrovic said.

Above: Da Fam is one of the Ultimate Gaming League teams.

Image Credit: Antares Gaming

“The way the esports and gaming industry is structured has always left me with questions,” Batrovic said. “And a lot of traditional sports money is coming into esports, so esports is trying to mimic that structure with franchises based in cities. But that’s not what this is. What our tech does is allow someone to relate to thousands of influencers or content creators who are streamers. We can create gaming teams for celebrities, personalizing them to fit their own values and beliefs. And then we recruit this team of streamers to create content around this team. You can then get some amplification that a typical celebrity team doesn’t usually get.”

Da Fam Gaming is led by captain and San Francisco 49ers practice squad quarterback Josh Johnson and former running back Marshawn Lynch (who became a star with the Seahawks and retired with the Raiders). Also joining Da Fam Gaming is Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters and Pro Madden player BAM. Johnson serves as chief athlete officer of UGL. In an email to GamesBeat, Johnson said, “I game as a hobby in my free time and love to be a part of economic and social growth around things I have a passion for. The concept sold me because of the tech, athletes, and creators working together to create a unique gaming experience.”

Johnson said he plays every day, unless he’s in training during the season. He plays Madden NFL, NBA 2K, and Call of Duty. He’s also playing Ghost of Tsushima at the moment.

Above: Glitxh Gaming features NFL stars.

Image Credit: Antares Gaming

“I hope these franchises and our league will be a place that creates long-term branding empowerment for all involved, that our community can plug into and generate economic opportunity,” Johnson said. “The goals for the team are to create great content for fans, win our competitions, and always continue to grow.”

Ochocinco Gaming takes the namesake of famed wide receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson (he’s been retired for years). He is joined by cornerbacks and avid gamers Darius Slay (Philadelphia Eagles) and Desmond King (Tennessee Titans). Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby captains 4 Brothers Gaming and Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and quarterback and gaming manager Brogan Roback fill out the roster.

Sidney Jones IV captains Glitxh Gaming and is joined by NFL wide receivers Preston Williams (Miami Dolphins) and Rashard Higgins (Cleveland Browns). Also joining the team is Avonte Maddox, cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Players from around the world have the opportunity to be drafted for competitive spots on each team and earn prizes and incentives by participating in team activities. All spectators, gamers and content creators are invited to be active participants on their favorite squad.

Each franchise is recruiting their army of influencers which will officially kick off with the first franchise event — the Call of Duty Deathmatch Pros vs. Joes tournament featuring 16 NFL athletes and the UGL gaming community on Tuesday, December 15.

Above: Ochocinco Gaming is a franchise in the Ultimate Gaming League.

Image Credit: Antares Gaming

UGL is based in Oakland and it is a startup esports media company powered by Antares Gaming, a novel celebrity-driven franchise-building organization; and Opera Event, an Oakland-based influencer management platform. Antares Gaming builds gaming and esports teams for celebrities to help them engage with millions of fans through gaming.

Batrovic said he was inspired recently when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) played Among Us and drew a crowd of more than 400,000 concurrent viewers.

“They didn’t watch for the skill,” he said. “They watched because she could relate to people.”

Fans who participate can earn points that can be redeemed for rewards.

Batrovic said it took time to form all of the partnerships for the league. But he is hopeful getting attention won’t be hard.

“We’ve got 2,000 content creators who are going to be sharing the events with their fans, on top of the celebrities and athletes,” Batrovic said. “We’re calling it our army of influencers.”

Antares Gaming is in Toronto and it is self-funded.

“The athletes turned on their Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts a decade ago, and now they will all be turning on their gaming accounts,” Batrovic said. “It’s going to be a much bigger segment.”

Batrovic said the company is in discussions with TV networks to get airtime for the events.

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