LAUGHLIN, Nev. – Guilherme Marchi may have been the Last Cowboy Standing back in May, but in the process he became just another bull rider to get displaced by Bushwacker over the course of the two-time World Champion Bull’s six-year career.
It didn’t matter that Marchi was a champion in his own right. Bushwacker just calmly waited in the chute and once the gate opened, he took care of business as he has done against so many other talented professional bull riders.
All it took was four powerful jumps from Julio Moreno’s rank bull to get Marchi – the 2008 World Champion – scrambling for his bull rope and sliding over the top of the bovine’s head inside the Thomas & Mack Center in 3.88 seconds.
Marchi said a month after the altercation that he was unsure if he would want to face Bushwacker again unless it was at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals in October.
However, a rematch between the two champions is coming sooner than expected for the 32-year-old world title contender, and he will be charged with squaring off against Bushwacker on Friday night in a $25,000 matchup as part of the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
The matchup, along with all other 14 pairings from the 15/15 Bucking Battle, can be watched nationally on CBS on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.
“I am excited. Before he retires, I wish to ride him,” Marchi said. “I wish I pass the two first jumps on him. His first two jumps are the hard ones.”
He then laughs, remembering how Bushwacker has more than one trick up his sleeve.
“When he is on his feet he is a powerful bull, too,” Marchi adds. “That bull is like no other bull. He is so strong and he can get you on the ground with such power.”
Marchi comes into the weekend following a 0-for-3 showing in the last BFTS event in Springfield, Missouri. He was seen with a slight limp in his injured right knee, and said Thursday that he had been feeling an increased tightness and soreness – Marchi injured his PCL at Last Cowboy Standing.
He took a step back from the intense rehab he was putting his knee through and participated in either yoga or Pilates every day this week after getting some advice from the PBR’s sports medicine team.
Marchi, who enters Laughlin third in the world standings, quickly pointed out that the extra caution with his knee had less to do with Bushwacker than it was about getting things back on track for the world title race.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert noted that Marchi has had plenty of opportunities in his career to select Bushwacker in short rounds, but has never chosen the champion bovine.
Lambert believes that Marchi will need to ride significantly better than last week to even stand a chance.
“Bushwacker is going to buck hard,” Lambert said. “Guilherme got bucked off three in a row in Springfield, so he is going to be fired up and wanting to ride a little better, and he is going to have to ride a hell of a lot better to have any chance.”
Moreno expects Marchi to be ready at the Desert Showdown. He remembers how fired up Marchi was behind the chutes for his first meeting against Bushwacker.
“I really thought he was ready for him,” Moreno said. “He kept pumping himself up when I was back there putting the flank on him. He would say, ‘Oh lots of money. I am going to do good for you.’
“Now he will get to go at it again. I will tease him about that and go, ‘OK, here you go. Here is the all money.’”
Marchi referenced how big and wide Bushwacker felt underneath him at Last Cowboy Standing. The Leme, Brazil, bull rider tried to keep his legs down and cover the front of Bushwacker in an attempt to maintain control. The effort was short-lived though, and just when Marchi thought he knew what was coming next, one of Bushwacker’s forceful jumps had him losing his grip.
“I thought Guilherme would do better on him than he did at Last Cowboy Standing,” Moreno said. “Yeah, he kind of got his feet behind him and he touched (Bushwacker) and it was done, and then he went to the left.”
While Marchi was trying to gain points toward his second career world title last week, Bushwacker was at home in Oakdale, California, resting in preparation for Laughlin after a 38-hour trip back west from the BFTS event in Nashville, Tennessee.
Moreno didn’t stay over anywhere on the trip home, only stopping on three occasions for three or four hours. The longtime stock contractor expected Bushwacker to be pretty tired and fatigued by the time they arrived home on Sept. 9.
It was actually the opposite.
“Shoot, he was walking and playing with the bulls next to him,” Moreno said. “There was nothing wrong with him. I just let him have about three days off before I moved him around.”
Marchi will provide a different test for Bushwacker. He is the first rider to take on the bovine athlete during the second half of the season followingCody Nance’s two failed attempts. Marchi has a different riding style compared to Nance and will try to see if he can solve the near impossible riddle that is Bushwacker.
Marchi admits he isn’t sure exactly how to go at Bushwacker, but he may even try changing up where he places his bull rope on the bull.
“I like to be out on the front when I try to ride him, but he pushes you so hard and sometimes when he moves forward he puts a lot of pressure on your feet,” he said. “You feel like you are going to fall off onto his front. I may put my rope in back a little bit and try and stay in the middle this time.”
Bushwacker hasn’t been ridden in nine BFTS attempts, and 13 overall, this year and has received an average bull score of 45.88 points. Bushwacker has bucked off the likes of J.B. Mauney and Mike Lee, as well as world title contender Joao Ricardo Vieira twice.
The defending champion has been marked 46 points or higher in three consecutive BFTS outs. Still, Moreno is aware of the chatter about other talented bulls gaining momentum toward the World Finals.
Moreno likes the fact that a different rider will be challenging his bull. It will provide fans, judges and all of those involved in the sport a chance to see what Bushwacker has left in the tank in the final outs of his legendary career.
“He has gone all year long from one end of the country to the other,” Moreno said. “This time of the year, they don’t care what the bull did all year. It is just now until the Finals. This is something Bushwacker needs to get everybody’s attention with by having a good out.”
The bull certainly has Marchi’s attention.
“He very strong, but I ride strong, too,” he concluded. “He tries hard and I am going to try hard on him.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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