LAS VEGAS – Weston Pender had never fought in front of an audience 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