Returning to bullfighting roots

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Hill beats adversity to battle for in front of Sutton, who developed freestyle bullfighting


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – In all his years as a bullfighter, Ross Hill has had his share of adversity.

He’s at it again, and he’s trying to show adversity who is boss.

He took a direct shot to the back right after calling for his bull during the Bullfighters Only event in Lewiston, Idaho, last weekend and suffered a dislocated knee.

“I got up and finished the fight,” said Hill, 33, of Muscle Shoals, Ala. “I just did it one-legged.”

Ross Hill
Ross Hill

He will take that grit and determination to the Bullfighters Only tour stop in conjunction with the Sioux Falls Premier Rodeo, set for Friday and Saturday at the Denny Sanford Center. Hill might need every ounce of it to come away with the title at one of the last events on the BFO’s inaugural season.

The incident happened when Hill attempted a selfie fake, where he starts the fight with his back to the bull coming out of the chute and watches the bull charging at him with the phone camera as his guide. The bull connected with a mighty blow instead.

Just a few days later, Hill returned to the arena during the BFO event in Pendleton, Ore., and performed well.

“I had two taped knees and was really sore,” he said. “I handled my bull. He didn’t read one of my fakes, and he hooked me and got me down. I got up and finished him, and we sold a bunch of tickets.”

That’s a sentiment that showcased just how exciting the fight was for the fans. He hopes to treat the fans in Sioux Falls, albeit in a different manner.

“There’s a lot of adversity in our sport,” Hill said. “I believe in the top 15 guys that we’ve got. It’s been a dream of mine all my life. I’ve never really gotten a shot to run at a real season on tour.”

He does now, thanks to Bullfighters Only. In fact, he sits fourth in the standings. He was originally scheduled to compete at another event this weekend, but he opted to make his way to Sioux Falls instead.

“When we represent the Bullfighters Only, we represent not just ourselves but the best of the best,” Hill said. “As a brand-builder, as a shareholder and as a true supporter of Bullfighters Only, I felt like it was best for my future.

“It’s setting up every bullfighter that wants to be a great for in the future as well. For me not being there, I’m just not doing the Bullfighters Only justice.”

Scores are based on a 100-point scale. Men can earn up to 50 points per fight by exhibiting control and style while working their way around the animal; bulls can earn up to 50 points based on their aggression, quickness and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

It’s nothing new to rodeo. In fact, Jim Sutton of Sutton Pro Rodeo – which produces the Sioux Falls rodeo – developed the sport 37 years ago.

“We were in the third year of the (Rapid City, S.D.) Stock Show and Rodeo that year, and we were struggling,” Sutton said of his decision to showcase freestyle bullfighting. “We started that bullfight, and it was an instant success. In two years, we doubled our crowd. Every year we had it, it just got bigger.”

The BFO has created a public demand for the sport, and Sutton recognized that. It’s one of the reasons why he sees the need to have it return to Sioux Falls.

“I was just trying to figure out a way to build the Rapid City Stock Show Rodeo,” Sutton said. “That did more for me than anything I’ve done. The bullfight has dang sure helped along the way.”

Nobody understands that more than Hill, who makes his living facing the danger and excitement – and possible joint dislocation – that comes with chasing his bullfighting dreams.

“I’m excited about this tour,” Hill said. “We have undoubtedly the best guys on tour, and some of those are my best friends and peers, guys that I have mentored and that have mentored me.

“Jim Sutton invented freestyle bullfighting. He’s the guy that came up with the sport. It’s going to be an honor to step in and to see how his sport has progressed since he started it.”

Ross Hill
Toby Inman
Dakota Knight


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