By: Justin Felisko
January 17, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Rubens Barbosa leaned against the side of the arena inside Allstate Arena on Sunday afternoon with sweat glistening in his salt and pepper hair.
There was no massive celebration or emphatic fist pump from him. The 33-year-old veteran just winced in pain and wore his exhaustion on his face after a rank 90.25-point ride on Cooper Tires Brown Sugar in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
Making those kind of rides are no longer so easy for the 2011 Rookie of the Year.
Barbosa’s first 90-point ride in five years was vintage Barbosa and helped him cap off a surprising 4-for-4 event victory in Chicago.
Barbosa was so tired and fatigued that he could barely form a sentence following his second career victory.
2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi let out a big laugh as he patted the tired Brazilian on the back.
“I have been following his career for a long time,” Marchi said. “Last year and this year, he and Wallace (de Oliveira) and Mike Lee have trained together. They work so hard in the gym in Decatur. That is building confidence to ride strong, and he is ready for those kind of bulls. Week after week, bull after bull. I am so proud of him.”
Barbosa said he has spent the last year trying to get in better riding shape as Father Time has begun to creep up on him.
He often wakes up every morning with pain in his back because of his right leg being shorter than his left. Barbosa broke his leg in 2010 before storming onto the PBR scene in 2011.
In 2012, Barbosa then broke his left leg and shoulder, as well as sustaining additional injuries, as he failed to live up to the hype of his 2011 debut 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.
The two surgeries to repair his broken legs have led to him walking off balanced, which causes him to have severe lower back pain at times, especially the older he gets.
Therefore, Barbosa, who wears an insole in his right cowboy boot, has to focus on increasing his lower back strength so that he doesn’t feel pain when he is riding 2,000-pound animals for a living.
“I am dedicating myself more this year,” Barbosa said. “I am working more at home and at the gym. I have some problems with my back because my leg is too short to ride bulls. I broke my leg and I put pins in there and it got short.”
Barbosa really caught the attention of those in Chicago with his Round 2 winning 88.75-point ride on Machinery Auctioneer’s Little Joe.
Multiple riders, as well as two-time World Champion Justin McBride and PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert, believed Barbosa had been shorted a few points.
“Man, he should been 90 points. That was a rank bull ride,” 2004 World Champion Mike Lee said.
McBride said, “He was 90 today (on Brown Sugar), and he could have been 90 on Little Joe. I hope he keeps building on it.”
Barbosa may be only 5-foot-6 inches, but he left Chicago standing tall and is the new No. 2 bull rider in the world standings.
He trails world leader Jess Lockwood by 205 points.
“I am very happy this week to get on really good bulls,” Barbosa said. “I have no words to explain. I am just so happy for everything.
McBride said you could tell Barbosa has been spending time at the gym by how strong he is despite his stature.
“That little guy is so strong, and the way he sits down and rides under his rope, when they go into his hand he is poison,” McBride added.
Barbosa earned 725 total points toward the world standings. He won 500 for winning the event average and an additional 245 points via round finish. The two round wins gave him 200 points. He tied for third place in Round 3 (86.75 points on Red Bandana) for 45 world points. Barbosa began his weekend with an 82.25-point effort aboard Small Time.
“That is the best day I have seen Brown Sugar ever have,” McBride said. “Into his hand, you could see it all weekend long, he keeps getting more confident and confident. Making better rides and better rides.
“I hope he keeps building on it.”
Barbosa’s ride on Brown Sugar was arguably his best since riding Priceless for 92.5 points points in Las Vegas at the 2011 World Finals.
Brown Sugar left the bucking chute with a large leap toward the front of the arena before turning into Barbosa’s right-handed wheelhouse.
“Rubens been riding great all weekend into his hand and I had seen it coming, Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger said. “I liked the matchup a lot. The bull did everything he could do. That is as good as that bull could buck. Rubens made a hell of a ride and could have been 91-92 and no one would have said a thing. It was a great ride. I was real proud of Rubens.”
Barbosa has never finished higher than 23rd in the world standings. He is now on pace to qualify for a fourth PBR World Finals and possibly notch his first career Top-20 finish.
“I want to finish strong this year and finish better than other years,” he concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2017 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.