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Barbosa is Off to Best Start of His Career

By: Justin Felisko
February 06, 2017

Rubens Barbosa went 2-for-3 on his way to a second place finish in Anaheim. Photo: Andy Watson / BullStockMedia.com

PUEBLO, Colo. – Rubens Barbosa didn’t have much time to process what had just happened to 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi Saturday night during the final round of the Frontier Communications Showdown, presented by Ariat.

Barbosa was getting ready to tie his hand into his bull rope when Marchi got kicked in the back of the head by Spotted Demon after his ride attempt in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

Marchi was knocked out cold and was down in the arena for over 5 minutes as Dr. Tandy Freeman and PBR Sports Medicine rushed to his head.

The 34-year-old was then back boarded out of the arena inside the Honda Center and later diagnosed with a concussion following a scary moment that left riders and fans stunned in Anaheim.

Barbosa has known Marchi for at least 10 years, but knew he couldn’t sit there on top of Cracker Breaker worrying about his good friend.

Instead, Barbosa did his best to make Marchi proud by riding the D&H Cattle Company bull for 85.5 points in the first ride attempt after Marchi’s vicious wreck.

“I needed to stay focused,” Barbosa said. “You have to take each rodeo ride for ride. That happened to Guilherme, not me. I had to focus on my bull and me.

“I knew he was OK before I nodded. The guys working the arena told me he was good and my head was better.”

Marchi posted a message on his Instagram account late Saturday night, “Hello everyone, (thanks) for all the prayers for me today. I’m good. (Thanks) God, you are the best.”

Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports commentator Justin McBride said Barbosa did exactly what a cowboy should do in that situation.

“It is tough, but that is something most of these guys that have been competing in the sport of bull riding or some level have learned to deal with,” McBride said. “It is tough to see. You go check on your buddy once you are done. You still have a task to do in there so you are not lying beside him. It is tough, but that is part of being a professional bull rider. He handled it really well and the guy is riding good. I am proud of him.

Barbosa’s ride on Cracker Breaker was the first surrendered by the 4-year-old bull on the Built Ford Tough Series in five outs.

More importantly, the ride, which was the 50th of Barbosa’s career, went on to win Barbosa his third round of the season and propelled him to a second-place finish overall.

Barbosa’s 2-for-3 performance in Anaheim earned him 370 world points and moved him to No. 2 in the world standings.

“At this point, it is very important for me because I am second in the world,” Barbosa said. “Being in the Top 5 makes my head that much better.”

The 33-year-old heads into the Kansas City Invitational, presented by Express Employment Professionals, this weekend in Missouri, 495 points behind world leader Jess Lockwood.

Lockwood has not lost the world lead since winning the PBR Major season-opener in New York.

Meanwhile, Barbosa is off to the best start of his career, having gone 8-for-16 (50 percent) with a win in Chicago and one 90-point ride.

McBride said Barbosa was his biggest takeaway from this past weekend.

“Well, I will tell you what I take away, Rubens Barbosa is getting better and better,” McBride said. “Rubens was the highlight for me. What I like about him is he wants to get better. That is important. He realizes there are a little challenges away from his hand, but he is working on them. He understands that he has to get up over his rope instead of riding behind them like he does into his hand. That is huge being able to identify the mechanics and how to go about them.

“I think you are going to see him improve.”

Barbosa won the 2011 PBR Rookie of the Year Award before a broken left leg and shoulder derailed his U.S. career the following season.

He would eventually get cut from the Built Ford Tough Series and it took him three years to return to the BFTS full time. Barbosa won his first career event in 2015 (Colorado Springs) after his wife, Dani, convinced him to return to the United States in pursuit of his bull riding dream.

In fact, 2016 was Barbosa’s first full season on the BFTS. He has never finished higher than 23rd in the world standings and is a career 27.17 percent BFTS bull rider.

He is now on pace to qualify for a fourth PBR World Finals and possibly notch his first career Top-20 finish.

Marchi has been a prominent advocate for Barbosa when his countryman has been competing on the BFTS. He has often helped served as a translator for Barbosa and will help pull his rope on the back of the bucking chutes.

“He helps me. He helps everybody,” Barbosa said. “He talks everything good. He will help with bulls and yell, ‘Let’s go! Let’s Go!’”

Barbosa hopes he can join Marchi on the list of Brazilian World Champions and become the sixth Brazilian World Champion.

“It would be special for me to win the world,” Barbosa said.

He then broke out into laughter, before concluding, “I am my favorite.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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