Bullfighting returns to Ada

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Toby Inman competes this past December during the Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup in Las Vegas. Inman has been one of the best freestyle bullfighters for years and he's excited to be part of the sport's return to Ada, Okla., on April 22. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)
Toby Inman competes this past December during the Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup in Las Vegas. Inman has been one of the best freestyle bullfighters for years and he’s excited to be part of the sport’s return to Ada, Okla., on April 22. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Bullfighters Only brings the sport back to its roots with event in a storied arena

ADA, Okla. – Eighteen years ago, Andy Burelle was a rising star in freestyle bullfighting.

He earned dozens of victories over his valiant career of battling fighting bulls. He competed in his first bullfight at the Pontotoc County Agriplex in 1999, also the first time the sport was showcased inside the Ada building.

“I had just went to Rex Dunn’s school that spring, and that bullfight was in the fall of 1999,” said Burelle, who will return to announce at the Agriplex on Saturday, April 22, for the first Bullfighters Only event in the storied complex. “It was the first bullfight I ever entered, and I ended up winning it.

“Fourteen years later, that was the last bullfight I entered. I won it and dropped the mic. That was the last time I ever freestyled a bull, and that was the last time the bullfights were in Ada.”

Burelle will pick up that microphone for the BFO event, serving as one of the announcers who will call the action. He provides color commentary while bringing world championship experience to the show. Most importantly, he brings a passion to his craft.

Now that he’s retired, Burelle has been witness to the sport’s resurgence because of Bullfighters Only.

“We used to have the world championships in Ada,” he said of a single event that eventually moved to Ardmore, Okla. “Now that we’ve got Bullfighters Only, we’ve got a year-long battle with standings. It’s not just one event that can crown a world champion; we’ve got world standings, and when we do these title fights and matches, you’ve got to be ranked.

“To be ranked at the BFO means a lot. It means you’re elite.”

Elite is just what bullfighting fans in Ada expect, and it’s why having Bullfighters Only bringing the show back to town is such a big deal.

“When we were in Vegas, we had seven performances where the guys would just go out and try to one-up one another,” Burelle said. “It was the rankest bullfight I’ve ever seen. Bullfighters Only has elevated the sport to a level that I never expected or have ever seen.”

“When I fought bulls, I tried to innovate the sport,” he said. “I brought the backflip, a lot like Travis Pastrana did with motorsports. Now they make my backflips look like nothing. What these guys are doing now makes what I was doing look more like taking a skateboard and jumping a ramp over a soda can.”

Bullfighters Only is also about innovation, and that’s been the driving force behind it’s incredible growth. Two years ago, the BFO was showcasing the sport via sessions that were posted on social media. Now it’s in the midst of its second full season of battling toward a world championship.

“Ada was one of the first big bullfights that I was ever in,” said Toby Inman, a Davis Junction, Ill., bullfighter who will be part of the one-day championship bullfight. “I was thrown to the wolves in Ada.”

Now he’ll be one of the wolves battling against some of the best Spanish fighting bulls around. Much like it was when Dunn, the legendary bullfighter, was providing the bulls in Ada, there will be some excellent bovine athleticism on display.

“Rex’s bulls were man-eaters,” Inman said. “As long as they’ve got four legs and are hot, I’m excited. You want those man-eaters, those that are coming out to rip you up. The same as what we face now with the BFO.”

He will get them, and so will the other top bullfighters that will be part of the bout. It’s a fascinating event. A big part of Bullfighters Only’s success lies within the heart-stopping action that comes with the extreme danger in freestyle bullfighting. Men will try to stay within inches of the bulls, which are bred to be part of this type of fight. The most successful will keep the animal engaged closely while showcasing true athleticism to stay out of harm’s way.

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.

“That arena was always jam-packed, and they couldn’t fit any more people into it,” Inman said. “I suspect it’ll be the same with this, because the BFO definitely brings a great show.”

Tickets go on sale Monday, March 27, www.bullfightersonly.com.


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