Whitebear representing well 

Canadian shines in second day of BFO Las Vegas Qualifier Round

 

LAS VEGAS – The Cree are one of the largest groups of First Nations in North America, with over 200,000 members living in Canada. Tommy Whitebear of Maskwacis, Alberta is one of them.

 

On Saturday afternoon, during the second day of qualifying for the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, Whitebear advanced to next week’s Preliminary Round which will pay out over $25,000 to the champion.

 

He is the only Canadian who has advanced so far, with Quebec’s JF Roch and Saskatchewan’s Jordynn Swanson sent packing in Round 1. Fellow Cree bullfighter, Kris Buffalo takes center stage tomorrow during the third and final round of qualifying at Tropicana Las Vegas.

 

“I came across a video of Bullfighters Only, and decided that this is what I wanted to do.” says Whitebear when describing his start in freestyle bullfighting.

 

It’s a good thing. He has now placed his hat in the ring among the best in the business.

 

“I can’t believe it right now. It wasn’t even a year ago when I just wanted to be in Bullfighters Only, and now I get to go against the guys I have watched and studied.”

 

He is one of three bullfighters who advanced from Saturday’s qualifier; he is joined by Noah Krepps of Jasper, Ark., and Dustin Konig of Ault, Colo.

 

“I couldn’t have asked for a better bull,” said Krepps, who began his bout with a high-diving Superman. “The landing kind of knocked the air out of me. The bull worked out really well. I definitely think I could have pushed myself harder and pushed him harder though.”

 

“You can’t get by making mistakes like that come next week,” Krepps said. “I love the opportunity I have. I think I’ve got as good a chance as the next man. You’ve got a great group of guys, so it’s a good time to shine.”

 

That’s what makes the qualifiers special. The final nine-man qualifier round is set to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tropicana Casino and Resort. Three more bullfighters will advance to next week’s BFO Las Vegas Championship, which begins Wednesday.

 

“I really didn’t think about the fight,” said Whitebear, who took plenty of punishment during his 60-second bout. “I was just going with what the bull was doing the best I could. I knew this was my only shot to make the BFO.”

 

Advancing to Las Vegas Championship

Dustin Konig; 82, Noah Krepps 81.5;  and Tommy Whitebear; 77


Pender flips for a spot in BFO-Vegas

 

LAS VEGAS – Weston Pender had never been matched against a full-size Spanish fighting bull in front of a crowd until Friday afternoon. 

 

He didn’t let it intimidate him. In fact, he became the first man in freestyle bullfighting history to

do a front flip over his animal during his 82-point bout in the first of three days of qualifying for the

Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship.

 

“I knew I had a pretty chargey bull, and I’ve been wanting to do a front flip for a long time,” said

Pender, 21, of Brookhaven, Miss. “I wanted to be first guy in history to do it. Once I did it to start the

fight, that was a huge motivator for me.”

 

It worked quite well and brought a capacity crowd at the Tropicana Casino and Resort to its feet.

Pender advanced to next week’s championship and will be joined by Miles Jones and Conner Rowley.

The final two days of qualifiers begin at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

 

“I could’ve been a little more fundamentally sound, but I feel like I kept my bull engaged,”

Pender said. “There were just some things I know I need to keep working on.”

 

That’s bound to happen with a young bullfighter. Pender’s first steps in the sport came earlier

this year when he took part in the BFO Developmental Camp in Sikeston, Mo. From there, he advanced

to the BFO Super Camp in Decatur, Texas. His invitation to compete in Las Vegas is just another move

toward his hope to be one of the best in the business.

 

“I feel like I made a decent fight, especially since that was my first full-size fighting bull to call for

ever,” said Pender, who attended East Mississippi Community College on a rodeo scholarship and

began cowboy protection there while helping bull riders in the practice pen. “There has been a learning

curve, for sure, but between God and Aaron Ferguson, I couldn’t thank them enough for this

opportunity.”

 

Ferguson is the founder and CEO of Bullfighters Only, which, in just three years, has become

the preeminent freestyle bullfighting organization in the world.

 

“I lived a dream today that not a lot of people get to be part of, and it means a great deal to me,”

Pender said. “The Developmental Camp was, by far, the best experience I’ve ever had. They all

believed in me, and I kept hanging with it.

 

“I work at a feed yard, so I get to step off my horse and fight mean little calves all the time.

When you call for that Spanish-bred fighting bull, it’s a completely different ballgame. He’s 90 mph, and

he’s hunting you.”

 

The hunt goes both ways, and Pender has at least one more shot to continue it in Las Vegas.

 

Advancing to Las Vegas Championship

Weston Pender, Miles Jones and Conner Rowley


Zarnetski claims Roughy Cup

LAS VEGAS – There is a new king of the Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup.

 

After Weston Rutkowski’s reign in the opening two years of the championship, Tanner Zarnetski of Texarkana, Texas, earned the prestigious trophy Thursday afternoon at the Tropicana Casino and Resort.

 

“It means a lot to come out on a platform such as this with the best bullfighters in the world to come out on top,” Zarnetski, who won his opening-round bout with an 85-point fight to kick-start the 12 bullfights, then followed with an 81-point bout with WAR Fighting Bulls’ Chute Boss to claim the title.

 

“After you step out there in a pen like this with a bull like that, then you pretty much lose all your thoughts and let your body take over.

 

“It’s mostly reaction. After years of being in circumstances like that, you learn to use your muscle reaction and reading bulls.”

 

It paid off well. He earned $7,500 for the victory and pushed his season earnings to $15,166. More importantly, he sets himself up well for next week’s BFO Las Vegas Championship, which pays $25,000 to the winner.

 

“I think this sets me up really good for next week,” he said. “My personal confidence is boosted, so going into the preliminary rounds, I’ve got a good mindset.

 

“We’re all looking forward to that payout.”

 

First it was getting through 12 of the rankest fighting bulls in the BFO. Several men were knocked to the ground, left bruised and bloodied. But that’s the nature of freestyle bullfighting. The men have to get as close to danger as possible while staying out of harm’s way, but that was harder Thursday than many realized.

 

“It was quite a bit of hard work today,” Zarnetski said. “They tried to bring in the best bulls for us to go up against, and it really showed. I think it was a good show for everyone to see.

 

Fortunately, I made it to the short round with a great bull, and I was a little more light on my feet. That made a lot of difference.”

 

Results

1. Tanner Zarnetski, 81 points on WAR Fighting Bulls’ Chute Boss; 2. Dayton Spiel, 76; 3. Cody Emerson, 75.


Inman in the hunt for title

Illinois man hoping to climb new heights chasing BFO world championship

 

LAS VEGAS – Toby Inman isn’t a man of danger, but it seems to lurk around every corner he turns.

It’s how he makes a living, whether as a bullfighter or with Toby’s Tree Service, a business he owns in his hometown of Davis Junction, Ill. He faces danger from towering heights trimming trees, and he looks at it square in the eyes as he maneuvers within inches of the raging horns of powerfully agile beasts.

 

He’s pretty good at both. He is the No. 2 man in the Pendleton Whisky World Standings heading into the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, set for 2 p.m. Dec. 7-10 and 13-16 at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Las Vegas.

 

“I’m the old guy, and the old guy still wants to win,” said Inman, 34, who came out of retirement a little more than a year ago to be part of the BFO. “I don’t have anything to prove, but to come back and jump in without training wheels, I’m pretty proud of myself.”

 

He should be. Over the course of the 2017 season, Inman earned several key victories and placed well at other stops en route to earning more than $25,000. He can more than double his season earnings in Sin City, with the Las Vegas Championship winner pocketing $25,000. With that, he can overtake the season leader, Weston Rutkowski, and has a chance to pocket the $50,000 bonus paid out to the BFO world champion.

 

“The money doesn’t necessarily motivate me; fighting bulls motivates me,” he said. “Vegas and the finals motivates me. I’m just excited to be a participant and be a top contender at my age. I definitely don’t show it a lot, but I still grin ear to ear, and it’s because of that. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

 

Inman has earned that chance. A decade ago, he was one of the top freestyle bullfighters in the game. He stepped away from it for about six years to focus on his business in Illinois, but Bullfighters Only not only got him back to work in the arena, it sparked a focus.

 

He has long been recognized as one of the smoothest men in freestyle bullfighting. He makes moves around the athletic bulls with ease, and his tall frame and equally athletic talent allow him to score big points.

 

He is one of nine top bullfighters who will compete in the third annual Roughy Cup to kickstart the Las Vegas festivities Thursday. All nine advance to the Las Vegas Championship, which begins Dec. 10, while 27 other men will try to earn their place through three days of qualifiers.

 

“I’m excited because fans continue to help us reach our initial goal, which is making freestyle bullfighting a mainstream event,” Inman said. “We’re able to do this because of the fans.”

 

Of course, having an opportunity at the big cash in Vegas doesn’t hurt either.

 

“I’ve got skid loaders and other things on my Christmas list that I’ve got to buy for myself,” he said with a laugh.

 

“For the most part, though, I still like to do it and have fun with it.

 

“It’s exciting that my friends and family – and even new fans – get to see my progression. They can see that I still enjoy it and can still do it well.”

 

He has plenty of reasons to be happy with where he is, whether it’s atop a tree or jumping a fighting bull.

 

BFO’s Seeded Bullfighters

Weston Rutkowski

Toby Inman

Kris Furr

Dayton Spiel

Schell Apple

Justin Josey

Zach Call

Tanner Zarnetski

Cody Emerson

 

Las Vegas Championship Schedule

All performances begin at 2 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 7: Roughy Cup – a stand-alone competition featuring the top nine athletes in the BFO. The event has become a staple for BFO fans.

Friday, Dec. 8-Sunday, Dec. 10: Qualifier Rounds – An open door for the sport’s rising talent, providing a chance to compete at the elite level. Nine of the 27 bullfighters competing will advance to the Preliminary Rounds.

Wednesday, Dec. 13-Thursday Dec. 14: Preliminary Rounds – Winners from each performance advance to Championship Saturday.

Friday, Dec. 15: Wild Card Round – Bullfighters will get one final chance to advance to Championship Saturday.

Saturday, Dec. 16: The 2017 BFO world champion will be crowned at the completion of a 9-man semifinals, followed by the 3-man Hooey Championship Round.


North takes shots for BFO

Respected barrelman a saving grace in Las Vegas Championship bouts

 

LAS VEGAS – The cliché of rolling with the punches has never been more applicable than for Andy North.

 

He’s the barrelman who will be in the arena during the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, set for Dec. 7-10 and 13-16 at the Tropicana Casino and Resort. He is a safety valve for the freestyle bullfighters in the competition, which begins at 2 p.m. daily. His protection is his 120-pound, aluminum-shell barrel that is padded on the inside and out.

 

At full speed, a fighting bull can hit the barrel at nearly 20 mph and with enough force to send it end-over-end. It can be brutal for the man inside, despite the padding.

 

His body already contorted to absorb the impact as much as possible, those shots take their toll. But that’s OK for North.

 

“I love working the barrel,” said North of Piedmont, Okla. “I think it’s something I was born to do. I’m trying to put a little subtle attention to what we do and what we’re there for.”

 

North has a few tricks to his trade, which is why he’s the most sought-after barrelman in the industry. His seven years as a bullfighter have helped him with the instincts of being in the right place at the right time. By gripping the hand-holds on the inside and shuffling his feet through a one-foot-square opening at the bottom, North just glides into position.

 

“Having fought freestyle bulls before, I have a little more insight where a guy is likely to get into trouble,” he said.

 

“What makes a difference is that I have a knack for knowing when the wreck is going to happen. I don’t want to distract the bull and pull him away from the bullfight. Fortunately, I’ve always had the ability to get sneaky with that thing.”

 

He’s made it into an art form.

 

“Andy North is the best barrelman in the business, hands down,” said Weston Rutkowski, the reigning BFO world champion is No. 1 heading into the eight days of competition in the City of Lights. “In times that pure chaos has come out, he’s been the guy to save me. He’s always been there when I needed him. He’s just so savvy in the freestyle bullfights that he knows where to be and when to be there.”

 

One reason he’s always there is that he’s protecting his dear friends. He’s been in their position before, and he wants to be there for them again. Being part of Bullfighters Only is just an added benefit. 

 

“The reason I keep doing this is the brotherhood I have with those guys,” North said. “Being in the arena with the very best is a good thing. It’s neat to be part of, to me that’s such a big thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the No. 1 guy out there or a rookie, I value them and what they bring to the table.

“If I have to take a shot in that barrel to save someone, I’m going to do it.”

 

The bullfighters know that. They hope to never need North, but they trust him if the situation arises.

 

“What makes Andy special is that he’s always right there,” said Kris Furr, the No. 5 man in the Pendleton Whisky World Standings. “If you go down in the arena, it may take four seconds for the other bullfighters to get to you to help you, but Andy is in position in a second.”

 

That savviness comes from 13 years on the job. Now he has the best seat in the house to watch the sport’s top men battle for the Bullfighters Only world title.


Defending the title belt

Rutkowski hoping to capitalize in Vegas to win second BFO world championship

 

LAS VEGAS – Every championship fighter wants to defend his belt in Las Vegas.

 

Weston Rutkowski is no different. He clinched the first Bullfighters Only world championship last December.

 

Now he will battle to retain that title belt during the BFO Las Vegas Championship, set for Dec. 7-10 and 13-16 at the Tropicana Hotel and Resort.

 

“I have a lot to prove,” said Rutkowski, 28, of Haskell, Texas. “Las Vegas is where you go to prove that you know what you’re doing.”

 

He has earned more than $42,000 through the rigors of the 2017 season and owns a lead of just less than $17,000 over the No. 2 man, Toby Inman of Davis Junction, Ill. Rutkowski will kick things off with the Roughy Cup, which begins at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7; he is the two-time reigning champion of the BFO’s inaugural event.

 

“The Roughy Cup is a big event,” he said. “If I want to win another world title, I need to win it for the third time in a row. If I can win the Roughy Cup, it’ll be tougher for those guys to catch me.”

 

He’s talking about the other top nine bullfighters who will be in the mix that opening performance. They have all earned the right to compete for the biggest payday in the game. Not only will they kick-start the Tropicana festivities, but they will also earn a bye into the Las Vegas Championship.

 

That’s huge, because $50,000 will be paid out over the eight days of bullfighting. In the BFO, dollars not only help pay bills, but they equal championship points. The man with the most money earned through the season will earn the crown. And this year, for the first time, that comes with a little more incentive: A $50,000 bonus paid to the world champ.

 

“I just want to go in there and take care of business. I’ve been in these situations where everybody is gunning for you, but I can only do what I do.” Rutkowski said. “It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I spent $750 to fly out to North Carolina to win $600 at a bullfight, so this shows how much the BFO has changed things for bullfighting.”

 

“I’ve got to trust in what I’m good at. I’ll just let the points fall where they fall and, if I do that, I should come back with back-to-back world titles.”

 

He’s confident, but he’s proven why. He’s picked up some key titles through the season and brings a boat load of momentum into the Nevada desert.

 

“It’s been a year of ups and downs,” he said. “In the beginning, I pulled my groin, and I had to go to two more stand alone events on a peg leg. I was fortunate enough to pull out a little money at one of those.

 

“Over the summer, I didn’t win a lot, because I was fighting my head. I was learning how to get through some tough times and still be able to put myself in a place to win another world title. I hope that shows how hard I work at this.”

 

The hard work is paying off as freestyle bullfighting has taken to the main stage of extreme sports, especially Western sports. Rutkowski is making a name for himself with his style, experience and athleticism. It’s a good time to be at the top of the business.

 

“Bullfighters Only has changed everything for guys like me and, especially, for those guys that are coming up in bullfighting,” Rutkowski said. “It has created a platform for guys that are up and coming to show off what they can do. To pay out $100,000 in Las Vegas is unreal. The BFO has brought freestyle bullfighting to the mainstream, and that was our goal.”

 

It’s happening, and Weston Rutkowski and all the others in the BFO are reaping the rewards.

 

BFO’s Seeded Bullfighters

Weston Rutkowski

Toby Inman

Kris Furr

Dayton Spiel

Schell Apple

Justin Josey

Zach Call

Tanner Zarnetski

Cody Emerson

 

Las Vegas Championship Schedule

All performances begin at 2 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 7: Roughy Cup – a stand-alone competition featuring the top nine athletes in the BFO. The event has become a staple for BFO fans.

Friday, Dec. 8-Sunday, Dec. 10: Qualifier Rounds – An open door for the sport’s rising talent, providing a chance to compete at the elite level. Nine of the 27 bullfighters competing will advance to the Preliminary Rounds.

Wednesday, Dec. 13-Thursday Dec. 14: Preliminary Rounds – Winners from each performance advance to Championship Saturday.

Friday, Dec. 15: Wild Card Round – Bullfighters will get one final chance to advance to Championship Saturday.

Saturday, Dec. 16: The 2017 BFO world champion will be crowned at the completion of a 9-man semifinals, followed by the 3-man Hooey Championship Round.


Stars aligning in Vegas

BFO’s top bullfighters to kick off Las Vegas Championship with Roughy Cup

 

LAS VEGAS – The Nevada desert is where dreamers come to fulfill their biggest fantasies, whether it’s cashing in at the tables or walking away with a world championship.

 

“There’s a lot of money up for grabs in Vegas, and that atmosphere is what gets everybody excited,” said Weston Rutkowski, the reigning Bullfighters Only World Champion. He is hoping to regain that title belt at the BFO Las Vegas Championship, set for Dec. 7-10 and 13-16, at the Tropicana Hotel and Resort.

 

“It’s the bright lights,” he said. “That’s where you go to prove to people that you know what you’re doing. It’s also a chance for several other bullfighters to catch me in the standings. I can’t sit back and let them come at me. I’ve got to go in there and earn that world title.”

 

The Las Vegas Championship will pay $25,000 to its winner, and that will go a long way toward crowning this year’s world champion. Rutkowski owns less than a $17,000 lead over the No. 2 man, Toby Inman. But this year’s world title comes with a huge incentive: The champ will be awarded a $50,000 bonus.

 

“Vegas is always a big deal for any event, whether it’s the BFO, the PBR World Finals or the National Finals Rodeo,” said Inman, who returned to bullfighting in 2016 after a six-year retirement and is now chasing his first world title. “If you have a finals in Vegas, it is going to be a big deal. I’m a contender to win it and still a contender for the world title, so that makes it exciting for me.”

 

Rutkowski has found his way to the top of the mountain again this season by overcoming challenges that blindsided him throughout the season. From injuries to a slump, he waded through the muck and earned $42,000. He’d like his 2017 salary to reach six figures, but he knows he’s going to have to find success in Sin City to make it happen.

 

“If $50,000 doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will,” Rutkowski said. “It’s crazy to think that the BFO is getting so big. It shows that the hard work is paying off, not only in my career but in the BFO. It’s an awesome feeling to know I’ve got a chance at $50,000.”

 

The BFO Las Vegas Championship is not only a display of classy veterans like Rutkowski and Inman. It will be a true athletic showcase that features seven other top stars who have earned the right to be among the top nine men.

 

Whether it’s newcomer Dayton Spiel, who worked his way onto the tour through the BFO’s Development Camps, or any other rising stars, there are plenty of lights to shine at the Tropicana.

 

“This is my first time to compete in Las Vegas,” said Kris Furr, who sits fifth in the standings and is within striking distance of his first world title. “I’m excited for the chance to win a lot of money and to compete with the caliber of bullfighters that Bullfighters Only has.

 

“Last year at this time, I watched the all of the videos but wasn’t a part of it. I like the position I’m in now. The BFO is growing, and there are more and more big bullfights. It seems like it’s growing that way, and that’ great for the sport of bullfighting.”  

 

Over the last three years, Bullfighters Only has pushed freestyle bullfighting into the mainstream of extreme sports. By having all eight days of events at the same location, the BFO is opening the door for more fans to be part of the festivities so they can see how the best bullfighters in the world play the game.

 

BFO’s Seeded Bullfighters (Top 9)

Weston Rutkowski

Toby Inman

Kris Furr

Dayton Spiel

Schell Apple

Justin Josey

Zach Call

Tanner Zarnetski

Cody Emerson

 

Las Vegas Championship Schedule

All performances begin at 2 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 7: Roughy Cup – a stand-alone competition featuring the top nine athletes in the BFO. The event has become a staple for BFO fans.

Friday, Dec. 8-Sunday, Dec. 10: Qualifier Rounds – An open door for the sport’s rising talent, providing a chance to compete at the elite level. Nine of the 27 bullfighters competing will advance to the Preliminary Rounds.

Wednesday, Dec. 13-Thursday Dec. 14: Preliminary Rounds – Winners from each performance advance to Championship Saturday.

Friday, Dec. 15: Wild Card Round – Bullfighters will get one final chance to advance to Championship Saturday.

Saturday, Dec. 16: The 2017 BFO world champion will be crowned at the completion of a 9-man semifinals, followed by the 3-man Hooey Championship Round.