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Earning their Right to Fight

Bullfighters Only qualifying event opens the door for the sport’s rising stars

Daryl Thiessen competes during an event earlier this year. Thiessen will be one of 12 men competing at the Dec. 2-3 qualifier that will send four to the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, which takes place Dec. 7-10. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Daryl Thiessen competes during an event earlier this year. Thiessen will be one of 12 men competing at the Dec. 2-3 qualifier that will send four to the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, which takes place Dec. 7-10. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

LAS VEGAS – There’s something special that happens when athletes reach toward their championship dreams.

That’s the case for 12 men who will be part of the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship qualifier round, set for 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“It still seems surreal,” said Daryl Thiessen of Elm Creek, Manitoba. “We’re going to Las Vegas with $50,000 up for grabs. If you would’ve told me that it was possible two years ago, I would’ve probably laughed at you.”

The bullfighters will battle for four remaining spots in the BFO Las Vegas Championship, set for Dec. 7-10 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Tickets for that are on sale now at AXS.com.

Thiessen will be joined in the qualifier by Ross Johnson, Dakota Knight, Erick Schwindt, Aaron Reemer, Jon Roberts, Travis Gidley, Tate Rhoads, Kyle Lippincott, Blake Miller, Bryce Redo and Judd Napier. Four bullfighters will advance and be part of the mix that features the top 12 men in the BFO, all of whom received a bye into the second weekend.

The opportunities in Las Vegas are as grand as the city itself. The BFO Las Vegas Championship will be the richest event in freestyle bullfighting history.

“It’s the biggest bullfight ever as far as payout, and I’m just happy to tag along. It’s setting the stage for a whole new level,” said Johnson of Merit, Texas. “It’s going to be a really good deal.”

Bullfighters Only has changed the face of freestyle bullfighting and brought it back into the mainstream. It’s a man-vs.-beast battle filled with danger as the bullfighters test their athleticism against aggressive and equally athletic bulls.

“There is no better extreme sport than freestyle bullfighting,” said Knight of Lebo, Kan. “I’ve always been an adrenaline junky. There is incredible adrenaline when that 1,200-pound animal comes at you and wants to kill you, and I’m able to control him and make him do what I want him to do. It’s action-packed.”

These men have earned the right to be part of the mix. They will have to further prove themselves inside the Convention Center in order to advance to the BFO Las Vegas Championship.

“It was unexpected, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to fight bulls in Vegas,” Knight said. “I’m still a young guy trying to get my career going. By being invited in there, I get the chance to fight bulls right next to my idols.”

That’s just part of the honor for the men in the qualifier. The opportunity is grand, but so is the talent in the mix. It’s what will make for amazing competition.

“I love the whole stage of freestyle bullfighting,” Johnson said. “It’s 60 seconds with you and one bull, and it’s the fact that by the end of the fight, one of you is going to know who won.”

Though it’s only a minute, freestyle is intense and magnificent. Done well, it’s like a dance in the dirt; if things go wrong, the chances of a big wreck increase mightily. It takes stamina, guts and pure will to come out victorious.

Every man in the field has been preparing for this opportunity, whether through regular workouts or through added cardio exercises. For Thiessen, he’s working out twice a day to get his mind and body ready for the fights ahead, training in Montana with fellow BFO bullfighter Nate Jestes, who will make his first WNFR appearance in the Thomas & Mack Arena this December.

“I need to understand that I’m here because of what I’ve done,”Thiessen said. “For the first time in my life, I believe in myself.”

That confidence is a major factor in any man’s success, and it takes great inner strength to tangle with the beast. It’s just another reason why freestyle bullfighting is a true spectator’s sport.

QUALIFIER CONTESTANTS
DAY 1
Ross Johnson
Tate Rhoads
Dakota Knight

Blake Miller
Kyle Lippincott
Bryce Redo

DAY 2
Erick Schwindt
Jon Roberts
Daryl Thiessen

Travis Gidley
Judd Napier
Aaron Reemer

Courtesy of twisTEDrodeo.com