GOODING, Idaho – The men of Bullfighters Only take danger to a new level.
It’s one thing to face danger; it’s another thing to attack it and bring it to its knees. That’s what the Bullfighters Only competition will be about Saturday during the final night of the Gooding Pro Rodeo. Five men will compete in the freestyle-bullfighting battle for the title.
“It’s crazy to think this is our actual first year and that we have so many events at these historic rodeos,” said bullfighter Chuck Swisher of Dover, Okla. “For my first year to walk into an arena with such prestigious awards, it’s a true honor for me to fight bulls there.”
The award-winning Gooding Pro Rodeo has a grand history, and Bullfighters Only is just adding to the showcase of the world’s best.
Freestyle bullfighting is not new to rodeo, and the Bullfighters Only has created public demand for the sport. The events feature man vs. beast in a head-to-head battle inside an arena. The bullfighters utilize their tremendous athleticism to try to outwit and outmaneuver the agile bulls.
Now just a little more than a year old, Bullfighters Only is still in its infancy, but it has grown rapidly. The Gooding rodeo is the 21st stop on the BFO’s inaugural tour.
“In my opinion, Bullfighters Only is the most elite set of guys that have ever been involved in freestyle bullfighting,” said Nate Jestes of Douglas, Wyo. “There hasn’t been a set of 15 guys that are as strong and as talented that are going down the road at this time. It’s not only the elite guys, but the elite bulls, too.
“These are the kinds of bulls that allow us to showcase our abilities and our talents. We’re fighting bulls that are good, fun to fight and are fun to watch. I think that’s what sets Bullfighters Only apart from other freestyle events. It’s the best guys, it’s the best bulls, and it’s the best freestyle competition around.”
Jestes leads the BFO standings with more than $19,000 in earnings, but his lead is slim. In bullfighting, dollars equal championship points, so every penny counts in a big way as the men battle their way toward the inaugural world championship.
“I think it’s a good thing we’ve all done to bring the bullfights back to where they belong,” said Allard of Vinita, Okla. “It’s taken off because bullfighting is the greatest extreme sport in the world, and we have the best freestyle bullfighters alive all doing it right now.”
With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.
“What’s cool about Bullfighters Only is that the top 15 guys are part of what we call the Pioneer Project,” Jestes said. “It’s 15 of the sport’s best. We’re in it for each other and for the sport of freestyle bullfighting. No matter who wins, we’re happy for each other. It’s pretty amazing.”
That’s a big deal to the bullfighters.
“To me, Bullfighters Only is more like a group of brothers,” Swisher said of the top 15 bullfighters in the game that make up the BFO. “We all went in and are part of this team that helps in bringing the freestyle bullfights back in front of the fans. It’s something we’ve always wanted for so long.
“Even before there was even a thought of the BFO, we always stuck together and stuck our necks out for each other. We push each other to get better, and now we put a name on it.”
The men of Bullfighters Only have shared their passion with others, and now the world will see what true athleticism goes into freestyle bullfighting.