By: Justin Felisko
March 22, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Guilherme Marchi, gasping for breath, leans over while the beads of sweat ooze out of his pours at home in Ferris, Texas.
The 34-year-old bull rider gingerly grabs for the jump rope in front of him, lets out a grunt and quickly tries to kick start his deadweight legs to start accelerating again.
The lactic acid, the pain and the soreness in his body are nothing new for the 2008 World Champion.
Neither is the sweat-glistening, salt-coated five-o-clock shadowed face fiercely staring back at him in the mirror.
“I am in the best shape of my life, ever,” Marchi said last weekend at the Ty Murray Invitational. “I think I weigh 180 pounds and lost about 20 pounds. I was 200 before the (World Finals). Now, I am strong and skinny. I don’t check (my weight a lot). I feel it in my jeans. My face.”
Marchi has always been an avid gym rat throughout his career, but the once baby-faced Brazilian is now a grizzled veteran with 14 years of bull riding wear and tear on his body.
It takes a little more work and time to keep his weight off and stay in pristine championship-form these days, which is why his weight loss (20 pounds) really is so astounding at this point in his career.
It takes not only a physical commitment to training, but also mental fortitude.
Those two attributes, as well as a burning desire to succeed in the arena, are the first things nine-time World Champion Ty Murray thought of as he held the cover of the April edition of “Men’s Fitness” this past weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Guilherme Marchi: World’s Fittest Athlete,” Murray then read out loud.
The PBR co-founder then pauses.
“I always love it just when I see a bull rider get put in the same category as other athletes,” he continued. “I will put Guilherme Marchi up against anyone. Through his career, as far as being an athlete, Guilherme is a guy that was born with a great body for this. And he was worked at having a great body for this. He has worked at keeping a great attitude for this. He has worked at staying fired up about it. It still really affects him. That is really important. It is hard when you have done it 8 million times and you have to keep working at it.
“Seeing this sort of stuff was part of our dream when we started the PBR. We wanted to start seeing guys get the recognition they deserve. Don’t get me wrong, it has happened in bits and pieces over the years. It just makes me feel good every time I see it. This article brings my heart so much joy.”
Marchi called it extremely humbling, and he is honored to be on the cover of “Men’s Fitness,” which hit newsstands late last week and is available now all across the United States.
“This is good for the sport, not only for me,” Marchi said. “It is special to me because I am a guy from Brazil. I had a dream to come to the United States. To be on the cover of a magazine here is not easy. The United States is the No. 1 country in the world with the best athletes. To be on the cover of this magazine means a lot to me.”
Marchi was quick to point out that he was in ways shocked that he was the PBR athlete chosen.
He referenced other popular riders such as 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis, who lost 24 pounds in two months on his way to winning the 2015 World Finals event title, young guns Jess Lockwood and Kaique Pacheco that could have been good choices for the magazine.
“Maybe it is because I am pretty,” Marchi said with a hearty laugh.
Marchi’s physical revolution has been impressive.
It was only a year ago that Marchi could only jump rope for roughly 2 minutes max.
Back-to-back seasons with torn ligaments sapped his knees of their prior conditioning and limited his ability to participate in intense cardio workouts.
Marchi had also torn the bicep in his riding arm and appeared basically on the tail-end of his career.
Instead of throwing in the towel, he upped the ante and began to rehab and work harder than ever before.
Marchi’s second-place finish at last year’s Built Ford Tough World Finals only added to his motivation to come back for the 2017 season, as did his pursuit of becoming the first rider in PBR history to record 600 qualified rides at the BFTS level.
In close to five months, Marchi has gotten into what he believes to be the best shape of his life by participating in a circuit training program of six to seven exercises at home during the week.
The exercises range from jump roping, pushups, pull ups, boxing, ab workouts and other exercises with kettle bells and medicine balls.
“I started jump roping for two minutes and now I can jump rope for 20 minutes,” Marchi said. “I do a lot of cardio and circuit training, but I do eat healthy too.”
Following round of workouts, Marchi will break for one minute and then pick up the circuit again.
Marchi does the circuit about four times per session and works out about four times a week.
“You need to be strong in this sport,” Marchi said. “You need to be strong for everything. Sometimes you think you are going to give up because it is too hard. You are with the best (bull riders), but when the dream come true you feel relaxed. You then believe in yourself because you did it.”
To help manage his weight better, Marchi only lifts weights once a week and focuses his diet on salads, chicken, beef and eggs.
“It helps you stay healthy,” Marchi said. “You need to be healthy in order to be strong, and those two things go together, especially in bull riding. It also helps you mentally stay focused and, of course, physically you are stronger. Mental focus is a big part of anyone’s success in staying on a big bull for 8 seconds.”
Marchi has stayed on more bulls (596) than anyone in PBR history and is the only rider other than 2004 World Champion Mike Lee to have ridden 500 or more bulls at the BFTS level.
He will go for career ride 597 on Saturday night when he takes on Dirty Vegas in Round 1 of the Ak-Chin Invitational.
Marchi said he isn’t putting too much thought into winning a second world title just yet, but the No. 17 ranked bull rider in the world standings believes age is just a number.
“I feel great,” Marchi said. “My knees don’t hurt. There is no pain with my bicep. Only the numbers say I am old.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2017 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.