FORT WORTH, Texas ― Right now, five of the top six bull riders in the world standings are Brazilian natives.
It’s been an impressive display of consistency, focus, determination and an indomitable will to win.
However, that is merely the here and the now.
More impressive is the fact that a third of 27 millionaires in PBR history have come to the U.S. from Brazil.
Atop the list is Guilherme Marchi, who is third all time, with over $4.5 million earned. He is followed by two-time World Champion Silvano Alves, three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes,2010 World ChampionRenato Nunes, three-time World Finals event winner Robson Palermo andValdiron de Oliveira—that’s six of the Top 11 all-time money earners in the 21-year history of the PBR.
“Guys who come here, they don’t come as a hobby,” Moraes said. “They come to make better, to have a better life when they go home. It’s the reason, I think, they try hard. I don’t think they try any harder than the Americans, I just see that they try hard.”
Moraes won his first world title in 1994 and earned only $126,000 compared to Nunes winning $1,594,527 when he won the title in 2010.
Marchi took home $1,518,696 in 2008, while Alves won $1,461,964 and $1,464,475 in back-to-back seasons – 2011 and 2012 – and now holds the record for surpassing $ 1 million, $2 million and $3 million faster than any rider in history.
With regard to earning such high paydays, Moraes said, “It’s a chance to improve their lifestyle.”
Moraes said that opportunities like the one Joao Ricardo Vieira had earlier this year when he won the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V and earned a shot at making $1 million if he could ride Bushwacker was unthinkable.
“I never dreamed of it,” Moraes said. “We never even dreamed of the World Champion winning a $1 million.”
The opportunity was a game-changer.
Moraes said those incentives are good for the sport—not just Brazilians.
“It means a lot,” said Robson Palermo, who has won roughly half of his $2.4 million career earnings in Las Vegas, thanks in part to those three World Finals event titles.
“This is the best bull riding in the world – all the good bulls – and when you’re young and you come over it’s really good,” he continued. “Like for me, when I won it changed my life.”
“Of course, of course,” he replied. “You know, everything changes—not only about the money, but for you living here. People think it’s so easy over here when you win money, but it’s not. It’s different.”
Guilherme Marchi notches his 500th BFTS career ride on Pandora’s Pyxis for 84 points in Round 1 of the 2014 Bass Pro Chute Out in Phoenix.
In spite of the money they might be earning, Brazilian natives are adjusting to being away from home, away from their families, cultural differences and dealing with the language barrier.
“You have to depend on another guy to live here, to travel, to eat and for everything,” Marchi said.
In addition to their responsibilities here and the fact they ultimately have to focus on riding bulls, which in and of itself is difficult, it’s customary as part of Brazilian culture for them to help their immediate family, including parents, siblings and grandparents.
With Marchi’s help, last year’s top rookie Joao Ricardo Vieira joked that having money makes everything a little easier.
According to Marchi, Vieira is smart and has been good with his money. Vieira has made in excess of $600,000 in less than two full seasons.
Upon his arrival in 2013, he shared an apartment with Eduardo Apaecidoand has since gotten an apartment of his own now that his family has joined him in the United States.
“It’s a dream come true,” Vieira said.
It’s also been a dream for Palermo to live in the U.S.
Within a week of winning his first Finals event in October 2008, Palermo and his wife purchased a ranch outside of Tyler, Texas.
Until then, he had rented several different apartments in the surrounding Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex area.
Palermo suddenly had to figure out what he was going to do with money he had never had before and what he planned to invest it in.
His Tyler ranch has become his home.
While he’s originally from Brazil, he now considers himself a Texan.
“I call that my home,” said Palermo. “I’m happy there, my wife is happy there, my kids, good school, good hospital and I found out they have a good doctor over there. Tyler has been really good for us.
“If I stop riding bulls I feel like I will live there for a long, long time.”
A lot has changed throughout the years.
Palermo, who is currently out with a shoulder injury, has earned more than $200,000 in six of the past eight seasons. Marchi has earned more than that same amount in all but one of the 10 previous seasons and with more than $120,000 earned this year, he’s well on his way to surpassing that mark again.
Alves has never earned less than $320,000 in three previous seasons.
As for competing at a time when the money wasn’t as rewarding as it is now, Moraes said, “I don’t regret that I rode at that time.”
Just as J.B. Mauney earned more than 15 times that of Moraes’s first title when he claimed over $1.9 million last season, Moraes said in another 20 years Mauney will be laughing at his earnings compared to the accelerated scale.
Moraes predicts World Champions will be earning anywhere from $10 to $20 million per season.
“That’s the way it’s going to be,” he concluded.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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