PUEBLO, Colo. – Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney has been through this once before, except this time he plans on having a different outcome.
In 2014, the Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy was embarking upon his first World Championship title defense in the PBR after finally reaching the pinnacle of success in bull riding.
The captivating bull rider was coming off a remarkable and historic come-from-behind rally to overtake reigning back-to-back World Champion Silvano Alves to win the 2013 world title.
It was an emotionally draining title run for not only Mauney, but fans and fellow riders.
Like so many other previous World Champions, a setback was expected in 2014 from Mauney as he tried to become only the second rider to ever win consecutive PBR championships.
That setback did occur, but it wasn’t for lack of try or injuries says Mauney, who finished 2014 ranked fourth in the world standings despite a career-worse 39.68 percent riding average.
“I never blame it on the injuries,” Mauney said. “That is all part of it. I put too much pressure on myself to prove that I deserved to be a World Champion. When you do that, you start messing up and you start thinking too much. I put so much pressure to show everybody I was a World Champion. I got to thinking too much and changing things. This year, after the break was over, I said, ‘Hell with it,’ and went back to having fun. I felt like I could do no wrong.”
Well, if he won a title in 2013 and a second in 2015, isn’t it safe to say neither was a fluke and that there should maybe be less internal pressure on his shoulders in 2016?
Mauney pauses before letting out a slight laugh.
“Well, yeah,” Mauney replies.
The defending World Champion’s laughter then turns serious.
“But I want to prove it to myself I can do it again,” Mauney reiterates. “Everyone says, ‘Hey you going to retire now?’ and I say, ‘Helllllll no.’”
There are two goals Mauney has committed himself to in 2016.
He wants to become the second rider in PBR history to win back-to-back world titles, and he also wants to become more consistent, even though he did conclude 2015 with the third-highest BFTS average of his career (60 percent).
“That is what I have my sights on I guess,” Mauney said. “Usually it is either I start off hot and I get cold or I start out cold and get hot. This year I am going to try and stay consistent the whole year. I would like to win it back-to-back.”
Mauney’s pursuit of a second consecutive championship begins on Saturday night at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds with the Midway Auto Dealerships PBR Challenge Touring Pro Division event in Kearney, Nebraska.
“I can’t remember the last time I went to Kearney for a bull riding,” Mauney said. “It is always a fun bull riding and I always have a good time. There are a couple of guys, Bart Miller and Josh Coll, that live out there and they used to live with me. I don’t get to see them very often.”
It will be Mauney’s 2016 debut, but his Round 1 matchup against Rawhide Jacket will not be his first bull attempted since the conclusion of his 2015 championship season.
Mauney helped teach a bull riding school in Texas last month with Riley Samford and a few other BFTS bull riders.
On the final day of the three-day school, Mauney grew frustrated with the kids’ effort. He wanted to help push them to strive for greatness, so he hollered at Samford, ‘Run them bulls in.’
The bulls Mauney got on in a 10-minute span were by no means your standard practice bulls.
Two of the four bulls – Red Moon and Wicked Stick – were 2015 World Finals bulls.
Mauney had previously ridden Red Moon for 90.5 points to win Round 1 in Thackerville, Oklahoma, and Wicked Stick for 91 points to win Round 1 of the Finals.
“I was tired of them messing around in the bucking I chute,” Mauney said. “I said, ‘I am going to show these kids how to get on some bulls.’ I got on those four bulls in less than 10 minutes. As soon as I hit the ground I told them to run another in.”
Mauney added that his sprained left sternoclavicular joint of his riding arm (left) that kept him out of the last day of the World Finals was fine, but rather it was the cold weather that had him hurting some.
“I know getting on four bulls in one day and it being cold, it felt like someone beat me in the hip with a ball bat.”
Speaking of hips.
The only rider to win back-to-back PBR titles, Alves, will also be riding in Kearney on Saturday night after spending the latter half of 2015 trying to overcome a hip injury that cost him a little less than four months.
Alves is also in the draw for the Prairie Band Casino TPD event in Topeka, Kansas, on Friday night.
It will be the three-time World Champion’s first competition since going 2-for-5 at two PBR Australia events in November.
“I am feeling good and my hip good too,” Alves said in a message to PBR.com on Wednesday.
Mauney and Alves have won the last five World Championships and are arguably the two greatest bull riders of their generation.
Both riders will use this weekend as a tune-up before the BFTS season-opener on Jan. 9 in Chicago, where Mauney will turn 29 years old.
This weekend is Mauney’s first PBR-sanctioned bull riding event in December since he competed at the 2010 TPD event in Fort Worth, Texas, while Alves is making his first December appearance since the 2009 TPD event in Grand Island, Nebraska.
“I have been at home since the Finals,” Mauney said. “I got on those couple of bulls at the school, but it is time to get it started again.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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