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Going After the Cup

Top 15 bullfighters will battle for the title at the inaugural Cavender’s Cup

CEDAR PARK, Texas – For decades, freestyle bullfighting has been an undercard event.

Bullfighters Only is making it the main event.

That’s the primary focus of the Cavender’s Cup, set for 5 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the HEB Center at Cedar Park. It will be a true showcase, and the top bullfighters in the game will make sure of that.

Nathan Harp

Nathan Harp

“The first Bullfighters Only event we had was a stand-alone freestyle bullfight in Las Vegas, and we made a statement,” said Nathan Harp, 26, of Tuttle, Okla. “This is going to be the richest one-day bullfight that I know about. We keep pushing the envelope, keep breaking new boundaries and seeing how far we can go from there.”

The Cavender’s Cup will feature the top 15 in a series of man-vs.-beast bouts, whereby the bullfighters use their athleticism to try to outwit and outmaneuver equally athletic bulls, which were bred specifically for this kind of fight.

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

“To me, we’ve got the best 15 guys wrapped up in Bullfighters Only,” said Ross Hill, 32, of Muscle Schoals, Ala. “Being the top 15 guys and sticking together to see this thing through is pretty cool.”

Imagine standing face to face with a 1,300-pound bull that possesses great speed, quick feet and intimidating horns. That’s exactly what freestyle bullfighters see any time they are in the ring, and that’s what makes it exciting.

“The really cool thing about freestyle bullfighting is that it’s just really simple to understand,” Hill said. “It’s a game of cat and mouse, except the mouse weights a lot more than 20 pounds and can flat run over you. It’s easy to follow, and it’s a little more self-explanatory than some extreme events.

“It’s man vs. beast. We’re the last of the gladiators. There aren’t a whole lot of sports out there where you can show your skill around a bull.”

It’s exciting to watch and entices spectators into the middle of the action, which is fast and furious and features true athleticism by men and bovines. Possibly the rankest bull in the game, Hookin’ A Ranch’s Spaniard, will be part of the mix. Chuck Swisher of Dover, Okla., was 89 points to win in Little Rock, Ark., earlier this year; he also is the only bullfighter not to be hooked by Spaniard.

Ross Hill

Ross Hill

“You’re either going to see something really cool, or you’re going to see a really cool hooking,” Harp said. “Either way, it’s going to be really awesome.”

That’s exactly what fans are looking for in Cedar Park, a community of more than 61,000 people on the north edge of Austin, Texas. The Cavender’s Cup will be an exciting conclusion to a three-day Western sports experience, the perfect headliner to two days of bull riding.

The event will be broken down into five three-man rounds. The top finisher from each round will advance to the championship round. From there, the bullfighter with the best score will be crowned champion.

“I really think this is going to be just the first of many stand-alone bullfights we do in the BFO,” Harp said. “This is an opportunity that we can do more, that we can have a full show of freestyle bullfighting. There is a market for stand-alone bullfights, and I really think there are a lot of people that love to watch freestyle bullfighting.

“Bullfighters Only is a great opportunity to do what we love. It’s more important for us to take freestyle bullfighting to another level, one that nobody in my generation has ever seen. I wouldn’t be at my level in my career without freestyle bullfighting.”

The Cavender’s Cup is the 14th stop on a tour of more than 30 events. At the conclusion of the season, the first Bullfighters Only world champion will be crowned.

“I want it, and I want it bad,” said Hill, an established veteran in the game. “I want to show my friends that I have as much confidence in myself as they do in me.”

Confidence is vital in bullfighting. Going head-to-head against a living, breathing, stomping bovine is no place for anyone who lacks it.

“What’s really cool about the BFO is that everybody has a chance to win the world this year,” Harp said. “It’s brought all the top dogs to one spot and let them fight it out.”

The next step toward that world title is in Cedar Park.

CAVENDER’S CUP CONTESTANTS

Courtesy of twisTEDrodeo.com