LAS VEGAS – The last time Ross Hill fought a bull in Sin City, it was an anomaly for the Alabama man.
Hill suffered a devastating knee injury at the BFO Roughy Cup in December 2016, and it kept him out of action for a year and a half as he recovered. Now, Hill returns to the Nevada desert for the first time in two years, eager to get the 2018 Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship at the Tropicana Las Vegas under way.
“Vegas has always been a spot where I’ve shined,” said Hill of Muscle Shoals, Ala. “I’ve always performed well there, and for me to have this opportunity of a lifetime at 36 years old to compete against these boys is a thrill, not to mention that I’m still in contention to win a world championship.”
Before the creation of Bullfighters Only, he was one of the top bullfighters in the game competing at almost any freestyle bullfight that offered the opportunity. That was a decade ago, when the Thunder EquiGames was held in Las Vegas to showcase the top bullfighters at the time.
“I’m the only Thunder EquiGames bullfighting champion,” he said, noting that he won the titles in both 2008 and 2009. “This is a 10-year plunge; a blast from the past for me. I get to relive the best years of my life and have the opportunity to do it better.”
The veteran bullfighter has played a major role in the development of Bullfighters Only, which was founded in 2015. In that three-plus years, BFO has become the premier freestyle bullfighting organization in the world, developing a true “action sport” in the Western industry.
The BFO Las Vegas Championship offers the largest purse in freestyle bullfighting. The event winner will pocket $25,000, which counts toward the crowning of this year’s world champion – money equals championship points. The bullfighter with the most earnings at the end of the season will be the world champion and will earn an additional $50,000 bonus.
Hill is fifth in the Pendleton Whisky World Standings with $18,666, trailing the two-time reigning world champion Weston Rutkowski by $19,000. The money that’s available in the City of Lights offers Hill and others the chance to move to the top by the end of the 10-day festivities.
“This year is offering a good chunk to win the world title, so I sat down and did the math,” Hill said. “I’ve got to sweep the finals, but I have the focus to do it. The only guy I can focus on out there is me, but I know what I’ve got to do to get it done.”
He also maintains the youthful confidence that led him to past success Las Vegas.
“I’m floating on the moon right now as far as my confidence goes,” said Hill, who didn’t start competing until mid-July and quickly moved into the top 5. “My workouts are going great. Basically, Kris Furr and Weston and I are working out twice a day. We have our travel trailers parked together in Decatur (Texas), so we work out at Fit N Wise together.
“Those guys at Fit N Wise really take care of us. The train us like we’re LeBron James.”
That’s important for the athletes in the BFO.
“The most successful freestyle bullfighters in the BFO train like any other world-class athlete.” said Aaron Ferguson, BFO’s founder and CEO. “They’re matching moves against notoriously unforgiving Spanish fighting bulls, and one small mistake can lead to big-time consequences.”
No matter the place, the BFO brings a noteworthy atmosphere with every live-show, and it is amped up even more under the bright lights of Las Vegas.
“It’s definitely an action-packed show,” Ferguson said. “We have as much intelligent lighting as a Metallica concert; it’s the best bullfighters in the world competing for a lot of money. More importantly, they’re going for the title belt.”
That attitude is the perfect fit for the Las Vegas Championship.
“We don’t do it for the money; it’s the title belt we’re all looking for.” Hill said. “The NFR is a marathon rodeo, and it’s a marathon of bullfighting at the Tropicana. We’ll fight more bulls over these coming 10 days than anyone, anywhere in the world.”