Bringing together the past and future of freestyle bullfighting
The history of freestyle bullfighting dates back nearly 40 years, when Jim Sutton, David Little and David Allen developed the Wrangler Bullfighting Tour. Wrangler’s support helped propel the sport to its glory days in the 1980s and ’90s.
Today, the premier freestyle bullfighting organization in the world, Bullfighters Only, is announcing a partnership with Wrangler Jeans and Shirts to launch the BFO Wrangler Bullfights.
“This is an exciting time for freestyle bullfighting, and Bullfighters Only, to have an iconic brand like Wrangler involved with this sport again,” said Aaron Ferguson, founder and CEO of Bullfighters Only. “The Wrangler Bullfight brand is still synonymous with our sport, and we’re honored to bring it back to life. While we don’t take the responsibility lightly, we’re going to have a lot of fun bringing our innovation to such a staple of western sports.”
The BFO Wrangler Bullfights will feature competitions that take place in conjunction with Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events – the first of which will take place Feb. 24 at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.
“The Wrangler Bullfights go back over 30 years,” said Jeff Chadwick, the director of Western events for Wrangler. “It was the talent and heart of men like Wick Peth, Rob Smets, Miles Hare, Skipper Voss, Rex Dunn and other great bullfighters in paint, matched up with the likes of Crocked Nose and Purple People Eater, that brought fans to the edge of their seats for years.
“Now, the next generation of athletes in cleats are matched up against the fastest and most aggressive bulls in the game – that’s what Bullfighters Only is about.”
BFO has also formed a partnership with Wrangler Network, the online network built exclusively for those living the western lifestyle. Plans are being made to livestream the BFO Wrangler Bullfights, as well as BFO stand-alone events throughout 2018.
“BFO has always been about fan engagement,” Ferguson said. “To have the incredible team at Wrangler Network stream our events to so many fans just made sense.”
There are a number of benefits to the partnership.
“Wrangler teaming up with the BFO is a perfect fit,” said Weston Rutkowski, the reigning two-time world champion from Haskell, Texas. “Wrangler was such a big part of creating freestyle bullfighting and does so much for rodeo. For them to jump on board with the BFO, it will allow these two great companies to really showcase this sport.
“The Wrangler brand is the epitome of freestyle bullfighting, and BFO is the premier bullfighting group in the world.”
Lance Brittan understands that. He was the 1999 Wrangler Bullfighting world champion who briefly came out of retirement last year to compete in the BFO. He now serves as a BFO judge and was one of two judges selected for the BFO Las Vegas Championship this past December.
“The more partners we can get like Wrangler, the better it is for the BFO and for the up-and-coming bullfighters,” said Brittan of Windsor, Colo. “This is a really good thing for the future of freestyle bullfighting.”
Brittan was joined as a BFO judge in Las Vegas by Rowdy Barry of Kennewick, Wash., who first became a professional bullfighter 32 years ago. He spent 15 years on the Wrangler Bullfight Tour.
“Bullfighting is very different now than it was then, and that’s for the better,” Barry said. “In comparison, we fought a lot more crossbred bulls, and the bulls they had for the bullfights might go twice every week. You couldn’t really throw any tricks at them they hadn’t seen.
“A lot of times, we were just trying to survive. That didn’t always leave a lot of room to be able to showcase our talents.”
Bullfighters Only was established in 2015 and has quickly brought freestyle bullfighting into the mainstream by showcasing the true athleticism of its fighters, along with a powerful element of danger in an action-sports environment.
“I think it’s awesome that Wrangler has teamed with the BFO,” Barry said. “There’s so much talent out there. There are a lot of great athletes that are bringing some new tricks to the industry, things that we never even thought of trying.”
The BFO’s partnership with Wrangler is the perfect transition from freestyle bullfighting’s glorious history with the ever-developing future of the sport.
“The sky is the limit with the BFO,” Rutkowski said. “We’re only scratching the surface of what we’re going to do in the future.”