PUEBLO, Colo. – Michael Gaffney had every intention of getting on a practice bull before the Built Ford Tough Ring of Honor: Unfinished Business, presented by BlueDEF, later this month.
However, at the urging of his wife, Robyn, and various scheduling conflicts, Gaffney has decided to roll the dice come May 30 in Decatur, Texas, and attempt his bull for a chance at winning $160,000 cold turkey.
The 46-year-old and 1997 World Champion will nod his head for the gate for the first time in over 10 years since retiring from the sport in 2004 without running a single bull into the practice pen leading up to the PBR event available exclusively on pay-per-view.
“You just can’t clamp and be all tight,” Gaffney said. “That is what I am hoping to avoid. If I can avoid that, I truly believe I will be OK. You hate to say it is like riding a bike, but I am hoping my subconscious will take over, even though it has been a long recess, and kind of just go with the flow.”
He then added before laughing, “Let the chips fall where they may with my old ass.”
Gaffney rode three-time World Champion Bull Little Yellow Jacket for 93.75 points on the final ride of his career at the 2004 PBR World Finals.
Instead of risking an injury in the practice pen, Robyn and Cody Lambert had convinced Gaffney to skip a practice session with J.W. Hart, Justin McBride and Ross Coleman a few weeks ago in Oklahoma.
Gaffney plans on heading to Lambert’s ranch the week of the event to get his muscles firing some by getting on horseback for the first time in two years since going on a mountain lion hunting trip with McBride.
The New Mexico native knew there could be some benefits to knocking the rust off in the practice pen, but he valued his wife’s wishes more than anything else.
“Quite frankly, she is right,” Gaffney said. “I have been removed for 10 and a half years. I am 46 years old. I have been injured a lot. She is already very apprehensive about it. You can’t blame her. She is a physician for crying out loud. Back when I was riding, we didn’t have kids. Now we have two. It is not the smartest thing I have ever done, let’s put it that way.”
Still, it doesn’t mean Gaffney hasn’t been training or preparing for a chance to earn some bragging rights against his fellow competitors: Hart, McBride, two-time World Champion Chris Shivers, 2012 Ring of Honor inductee Ross Coleman, 2000 World Finals event winner Tater Porter, 1999 PBR Rookie of the Year and PRCA champion Mike White and 1992 PRCA champion Cody Custer.
Robyn helped get Michael connected with a personal trainer at Elevate: Performance Health Wellness (PHW) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The retired bull rider has been training there four days a week alongside various mixed martial arts fighters and professional baseball players.
Elevate: PHW has been featured in “UFC Magazine” and in “Men’s Health.” UFC fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has trained there, as well as UFC’s Carlos Condit.
Gaffney, who was no stranger to the gym earlier in his career before injuries to his shoulders limited what he could do, admitted that this is the hardest he has ever worked out.
“I have always done some kind of fitness training,” Gaffney said. “But never something this specific, not with somebody over my shoulder correcting me on every lift and being with me and focusing on very specific movements. This is a whole new level for me to be involved in thanks to my wife.”
Gaffney – a 2005 Ring of Honor inductee – also understands the reality of the situation. There is no way for him to be in the same riding shape that he was at during his career at 46 years old.
“I will say this. Can a guy be in riding shape at 46? I don’t think that is possible,” Gaffney added. “Absolutely not. Of course, you are talking to somebody like myself or any of the guys that have had a quality riding career, but we knew what it took physically. Can I be in good shape? Absolutely.”
Along with dieting and continuing to train on the side in his home gym, Gaffney says he is already close to the weight he was at during his riding years.
Feeling healthy only adds to the excitement about competing in three weeks.
“If you have been doing something since you were a small child and all of a sudden you quit cold turkey, it is kind of foreign to you and you miss it,” Gaffney said. “Do I miss the injuries? Of course not; but at the same time – after I retired – once you get past the injuries, I was like, ‘I feel alright. I can go get on one right now.’
“The delusions of grandeur are pretty common and I had them.”
Just last week in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Gaffney watched Beaver Creek Beau buck and thought, “Hell, I would run that one right out.”
Beaver Creek Beau has gone 24-3 on the Built Ford Tough Series.
“That may have been another delusion of grandeur right there,” Gaffney said with a laugh.
Delusional or not, Gaffney has every intention of trying to hold his own against Custer and their younger competitors despite the lack of practice.
He is nowhere ready to concede defeat to any of his closest buddies.
“We are competitors and I think we will be that until we die,” he said. “I am not going there to fall off. That can obviously happen, but that is not my plan. My plan is to go there and keep my hand shut and I don’t want to be on the side dragging. I want to be in the center. Time will tell.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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