By: Justin Felisko
February 15, 2016
ST. LOUIS – J.B. Mauney shrugged after winning his first 15/15 Bucking Battle this past weekend at Scottrade Center.
The active leader in 90-point rides (67), event wins (26) and Built Ford Tough Series round wins this season (five) had to wait until his 90.25-point ride on Sheep Creek to finally celebrate a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory.
Regardless, the accomplishment was a mute one to him for the most part.
“That gold buckle is the only thing I worry about,” Mauney said. “It is good winning events and winning them rounds, but, shoot, that is the only thing that is on my list. Winning that gold buckle. It makes you feel good when (you win) a 15/15 when that is the rankest bulls here. To win one, that means you rode a bad one to do it.”
Mauney’s Sheep Creek ride – the same bull that cost him a $100,000 victory at the 2015 Calgary Stampede – helped him earn 150 points toward the world standings, and combined with his 2-for-4 showing (265 world points) at the Bass Pro Chute Out, presented by Cooper Tires, Mauney is now only 7.5 points behind world leader Paulo Lima.
Mauney had the same reaction about being so close to the world No. 1 ranking that he did about winning his first 15/15 Bucking Battle.
“I would like to be sitting first all year long and just run away with it, but that probably won’t happen,” he said with another shrug. “Those other guys ride too good for that to happen. I don’t care where I am sitting right now. It all comes down to Vegas.”
The Top-5 of the world standings is separated by less than 189 points heading into the upcoming Built Ford Tough Kansas City Clash, presented by Foley Equipment.
Mauney has begun his second world title defense eerily similar to his first title defense in 2014. He is 12-for-21 (57.41 percent) with five round wins and three 90-point rides this year. The Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy went 13-for-22 (59.09 percent) with five round wins and one 90-point ride through the first six BFTS events in 2014.
However, Mauney, would only go on to record only seven more qualified rides the rest of that season before going 5-for-6 at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Mauney never gained the No. 1 ranking in 2014 and had one of the worst seasons of his career. Prior to placing second at the Finals, Mauney was 17th in the world standings, had missed five events because of injuries and was riding at a career-worst 35.09 percent.
He learned a lot from his first crack at trying to repeat as World Champion.
“When I won it then, I knew what to expect, but I never really had to deal with it to that extent,” Mauney said. “Wanting me to do interviews, wearing me out left and right. Making such a big deal about it at each and every event. After that year, I kind of learned what was coming and what to expect this year.”
Mauney also put to rest any notion that he won’t be as effective the more he looks like RoboMauney with his new left elbow brace, a cast on his right thumb, and multiple knee braces.
He actually had to get his right thumb, which has a torn ligament, recasted following Saturday night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle because the swelling had gone down from when he first had it casted.
“It don’t affect you at all,” he said. “Hell, I got braces on my knees, braces on my elbow. I have a cast and everything. That is all part of it. You have to deal with it. I have dealt with different stuff my whole entire career and if you get thrown off you can blame it on that, but it has nothing to do with it.”
One slight difference between his title defenses is that Mauney has yet to buck off two consecutive bulls in 2016 – granted he did buckoff back-to-back bulls in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Sunday, but was awarded a re-ride after challenging that he never nodded for the gate.
While happy to have began 2016 with good consistency, Mauney is a little frustrated with his poor starts at events. Four of his nine buckoffs (44.44 percent) have come in the first round.
“I don’t know what it is,” Mauney said. “The first days of these events I have been having hell. I don’t know if my motor ain’t running when I get here or what. We will get it figured out.”
Mauney hasn’t let his slight struggles in the first round hurt him though. He has posted a Top-5 finish in four of his past five events. The only event he didn’t place in the Top 5 during that stretch was when he missed the last two days of the Anaheim Invitational because of food poisoning.
In fact, outside of Kansas City, Mauney is a previous winner at four of the next five events, including Iron Cowboy and the Albuquerque, New Mexico, event. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque.
Still, it isn’t all about picking up event wins here and there, says Mauney.
It is all about making sure he has another gold buckle around his waist for the second year in a row come the conclusion of the 2016 World Finals on Nov. 6.
“I really don’t look at it,” he said. “15/15, first round, second round, they are all the same. The short round at the World Finals or whether it is the long round here, or whether you are getting on a practice bull at home, everything has to be the same.
“Win, lose or draw, you have to go about it all the same way.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.