By: Justin Felisko
April 22, 2016
DES MOINES, Iowa – Guilherme Marchi admits he is no longer the same bull rider that he was when he was 26 years old and won the 2008 World Championship.
A sport where you have to ride a 2,000-pound animal doesn’t get any easier at 33.
Marchi has shredded ligaments in both of his knees, as well as a torn bicep in his riding arm, yet the Leme, Brazil, bull rider somehow continues to compete on the Built Ford Tough Series.
After welcoming 2004 World Champion Mike Lee to the prestigious 500 club last weekend, Marchi reiterated he still believes he can reach 600 qualified rides before he is done riding.
“I am going to try and get 600 bulls,” Marchi said. “I hope to. I know I can do it. I still ride good. I am still strong. I still want too. Let’s see. That 600 is going to be good for me before I am done. I am thinking I can get it next year. I think I have two more years.”
Marchi – the PBR’s all-time rides (557) leader – heads into this weekend’s Des Moines Invitational 28th in the world standings and is 9-for-28 (32.14 percent) this season. Multiple injuries have limited him to competing in only 10 of the 14 BFTS events.
He needs 43 more qualified rides to reach the 600 mark and has averaged 40 rides per season in the last three years; but he will need to improve upon his 32 percent riding average if he hopes to match the 39 qualified rides he had last year.
Marchi has a career riding average of 55.81 percent and has won 23 BFTS events, including the prestigious Last Cowboy Standing in 2014. This year’s Last Cowboy Standing – the final PBR Major of the first half – takes place on May 13-14 as a part of the Las Vegas Helldorado Days Rodeo.
He finished last year 16th in the world standings, which ended a streak of 10 consecutive Top-10 finishes in the world standings.
“The hardest part in bull riding is to stay healthy,” said Marchi, who has bucked off eight bulls in a row. “The ground is so hard and those bulls buck so hard too. For us, we are over 30 years old and we fight with the young guns, but we are still here, still enjoy and still have a dream to be a World Champion again.”
Marchi, who turns 34 in July, has drawn Pneu-Dart’s Drop Zone (2-0, BFTS) for Round 1 at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday night. With two ride attempts in Des Moines, Marchi will join Lee as the only two riders in PBR history with 1,000 outs and 500 rides on the BFTS
One thing that hasn’t changed as he has gotten older is Marchi’s love and passion for the sport. That has been the driving force behind him making the 8-second mark this year in many cases.
“I am so proud of everything I have done in my career,” Marchi said. “(500 rides) is a lot of dedication and a lot of pain, a lot of heart, a lot of blood. It is a dream to stay on the top to be with the best and it is a dream to ride the best bulls.”
Lee agreed that dedication can go a long way towards longevity.
“If you really want to do this for a living and you are where you are at, you will do everything it takes to turn things around,” Lee said. “He doesn’t lose his desire. He has a lot of energy in him. When things get tough, he gets his mind right.”
Marchi doesn’t believe retirement is on the table for him just yet either, despite the topic coming on multiple occasions in recent years.
“Right now, 557 rides, the years go fast and the more bulls we get on the more (enjoyment) I have,” he said. “I know I have to retire pretty soon, but I don’t want to. I enjoy coming to the events.”
He is still slowly making progress toward life after bull riding, is still undecided on if he will stay in the United States or move back to Brazil. Marchi recently launched his Marchi Caps hat brand in Brazil and is working on a clothing line as well. He also hopes to be able to sell his hats in the United States eventually.
Marchi hasn’t ruled out the idea of moving back to Brazil to try and help the sport continue to grow too. He loves working with kids and wouldn’t mind organizing bull riding and rodeo schools back home.
“I wish I could still do something for my country to help the sport grow,” Marchi concluded. “Maybe I will retire and go back to Brazil and do something there or do something here in the United States. Just helping the kids. I know my country has a bunch more kids and people have a dream to not only be a bull rider, but rodeo is growing in Brazil. Maybe do something on TV down there.
“But I still want to ride here for a couple more years.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.