By: Justin Felisko
October 30, 2016
LAS VEGAS – There was much concern over whether or not 2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa would be able to get his visa approved in time to compete at the BlueDEF Tour Finals this weekend at South Point Arena.
So far, getting his visa may have been the most stressful part. Barbosa kicked off his PBR career on American soil with a smooth 85-point ride on Simon Says Saturday night during Round 1 of the BlueDEF Finals.
“I am very excited to do well because everything is surprising to me,” Barbosa, shaking his head in amazement, said with the help of Valdiron de Oliveira translating. “This is all different. I had a dream before I come over to one day come to America and ride bulls.”
It was only 24 hours earlier when the Paulo de Faria, Brazil, bull rider was rushing to the airport to board a Friday evening red-eye flight to the United States.
“Friday I got my visa,” Barbosa said. “I didn’t have too much time. The guys in the consulate gave me my visa and then I came right to get on a plane.
“A lot of people have come to Brazil and said I should come to America and go to Vegas. This was a surprise. This is very different. This a beautiful city with a special event.”
Barbosa showed no signs of jetlag or first-time jitters, especially after getting rocked inside the bucking chutes by Simon Says in Round 1.
The 22-year-old settled himself down, nodded for the gate and went to work once Simon Says turned into his left hand.
“There was a little bit of pressure because he was bad in the chutes,” Barbosa said. “But this is my dream. I had to do my best.”
Oliveira added, “That is very impressive. The first bull is hard. He shook his head and said, ‘Let’s go.’”
Barbosa arrived at the BlueDEF Finals following a dominant season in Brazil in which he went back-and-forth with fellow PBR Brazil superstar and 2015 champion Luciano de Castro, who was expecting to ride in Las Vegas before Barbosa’s last-minute visa approval.
He clinched the 2016 Brazil championship by going 5-for-5 at the prestigious Barretos bull riding event in August.
Barbosa bucked off only six bulls in 66 attempts in PBR Brazil competition this year, which is a crazy 90.91-percent riding average.
“One of my dreams is complete because all of the riders want to win the championship in Brazil,” Barbosa said.
Barbosa had also already won a national title in Brazil by the time he was 18 years old.
Oliveira pulled Barbosa aside after his 85-point ride to offer some feedback and coaching. The 10-year PBR veteran said time will tell if Barbosa can transition his Brazilian dominance to success in the United States.
So far, though, Oliveira likes what he is seeing from the young kid.
“For his first bull, he looked pretty good,” Oliveira said. “Give him a few more events and two or three more months. He needs to ride more bulls. The first bull? You never know. You have more bulls coming. These are the rankest bulls in the world. Maybe three more months and he may be the best. He may be Top 10 in the world.”
BlueDEF Tour leader Emilio Resende has known Barbosa since 2011 and has been helping get Barbosa, who knows no English, around in Las Vegas.
The two are also rooming together at the South Point Hotel, Spa and Casino.
“I ride four years over there with him,” Resende said. “Dener is a good bull rider. He is a young boy. He is skinny. He is ready. He rides jump for jump. This is a good deal for him. The United States is the best place for good bull riders.”
Barbosa’s grandfather owns a ranch in Brazil, and Dener began riding bulls when he was 13 years old. He grew up watching various bull riding videos and seeing three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes ride, as well as Brazil bull riding legend Vilmar Felipe.
Felipe was one of the more stylish bull riders during the mid-80s and 1990s in Brazil. He won the bull riding title at Barretos in 1985 and 1987 and is arguably one of the Top-5 bull riders in Brazil history.
Barbosa and Felipe are both from Paulo de Faria, a city of roughly 9,000 people in south-central Brazil.
Barbosa spent much of his life looking up to Felipe.
“We had a bull rider from the same town I live in,” Barbosa explained. “A long time ago. In the 1990s, he was the best. Vilmar Felipe. Adriano and him rode together before. They were the best.”
Barbosa hopes to one day do something that Felipe never did – bring a PBR world title back home to Paulo de Faria.
He is the same age as current world leader Kaique Pacheco.
Still, Barbosa knows to accomplish his penultimate dream he has some work to do before he can put himself in that conversation in future seasons.
He plans on riding for another two to three months before deciding if he should stay in the United States full time in 2017.
“The first step is to ride good,” he said. “The second step is to work for the World Championship. It is different because the bulls here are littler and more fast. In Brazil, all the bulls are strong, big and have a lot of power. I like when they are smaller and come out of the left delivery.”
For now, Barbosa would like to earn one of the five wild card spots for the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals that are up for grabs this weekend.
He is currently third in the event and is leading Dakota Buttar for the top international wild card. He can also get to the World Finals by winning the BlueDEF Finals.
Barbosa has drawn Clifford, the son of three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker, for Round 2. Chase Outlaw rode Clifford for 82.75 points in San Jose, California.
“I am very calm,” Barbosa concluded. “I just want to ride bulls. You never know. This is a hard job tonight and tomorrow, but I am very happy.”
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