THACKERVILLE, Okla. – It has been 49 Built Ford Tough Series events, 22 months and 10 days since J.B. Mauney last stood atop the world standings.
Ever since Mauney hoisted the World Championship inside the Thomas & Mack Center at the conclusion of the 2013 season, he has been on the hunt for another illustrious gold buckle.
Not only has he been in search of a second world title, he has also spent every one of those days trying to run down various No. 1 bull riders in the world including Silvano Alves, Matt Triplett, Guilherme Marchi, Valdiron de Oliveira, Mike Lee, Fabiano Vieira, Reese Cates and Joao Ricardo Vieira.
He is no longer the hunter.
Mauney is now going to be the hunted during the final four regular-season BFTS events until the Built Ford Tough World Finals on Oct. 21-25 in Las Vegas.
The 28-year-old’s second-place finish (2-for-3, 440 points) at the WinStar World Casino & Resort Invitational helped him move ahead of former world No. 1 Joao Ricardo Vieira by 252.5 points.
“I want to be sitting first,” Mauney said. “It doesn’t bother me having those guys chasing me. Backing me into a corner, I come out swinging. But it is the same thing. If you are sitting first, you have to fight for that first. You can’t just sit there and try and go by easy. You have to try every time you nod your head to keep that position because there are 34 guys chasing you down.
“They are not going to stop.”
Mauney has been on a relentless mission to the No. 1 ranking since returning from his torn left ACL in Des Moines, Iowa, in mid-April.
His impressive start to the BFTS stretch run – two victories and a runner-up finish in Thackerville – has many comparing the 2015 Mauney run to that of 2013.
It was in Thackerville in 2013 when Mauney won the second of five events to conclude the 2013 regular season before going 6-for-6 at the World Finals to win the Finals event title and his first World Championship.
“The first one was great,” Mauney said. “That is what I dreamed of my whole life. Once you accomplish that, you set it again and set the same goals. I didn’t retire after the first one so you don’t give up and let off the gas pedal. You keep it floored as far as you can and win as many as you can until you can’t do this anymore.”
The difference this time around is Mauney, who was able to rebound from a left ankle injury sustained two weeks ago in Nashville, is now the No. 1 bull rider in the world.
At this time two years ago, Mauney trailed Alves – the world leader – by 2,292.75 points in the old points system, and was fourth in the world.
Mauney certainly has his foot slammed on the gas pedal.
He has gone 8-for-11 with two victories and four 90-point rides since the BFTS resumed from the summer break in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Mauney’s 92.25-point ride on SweetPro’s Long John in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Saturday night was the 60th of his career. He also won Round 1 on Friday night with a 90.50-point ride on Red Moon.
In comparison, Mauney was 9-for-13 with two victories and two 90-point rides in 2013. In that season, he also famously covered Bushwacker for 95.25 points in Tulsa.
“I have always said if you are going to be the best bull rider in the world, you have to get on the best bulls to do it,” Mauney said. “If you are in a position to do it, pick the rank ones. If somebody tells me I can’t do something, I like proving them wrong.”
Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Justin McBride added, “Everybody’s motivation is different for why they ride bulls. He rides them because he loves trying to ride rank bulls and that is why he has been a World Champion and that is why he has put himself in position win another one.”
Mauney benefitted from his ability to shake off a second-round buckoff (2.87 seconds) against Beef Cake and channel his emotions into covering Long John.
Following the buckoff, Mauney stormed out of the arena and slammed his fist onto a storage bin before throwing his bull rope.
He knew he had made a mistake.
“That first bull was my fault,” Mauney said. “He jumped in there. I get my motor running a little too much sometimes and I jump at them bulls. Them bulls like him, you have to slow everything down. You have to ease up there. I jumped at him and he threw his head up at my face.
“A deal like this. If your head hits the ground you can’t let it bother you. You have to pick up and keep on getting it.”
Mauney has to keep on moving forward, especially with how much closer this year’s title race is compared to 2013.
Vieira, who had been No. 1 for nine consecutive BFTS weeks since the end of March, is one good weekend away from being back on top.
No. 3 Kaique Pacheco sits just 900 points behind Mauney, while No. 4 Matt Triplett (-1,165) and No. 5 Fabiano Vieira (1,340) are within 1,500 points.
Shoot, even No. 6 Nathan Schaper is just 1,717.5 points away from the No. 1 ranking.
Mauney refrained from saying he was the best bull rider in the world.
“I wouldn’t go as far as that,” he replied. “There are 35 guys here that can win anytime they nod their head. If you are lucky enough to win, you have done something right because these are the best bull riders in the world.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t expect to win every weekend.
“I am here to ride bulls and have fun, but I want to win also,” Mauney said. “I am not going to tell anybody I am going to win, but when I show up I know I am going to win.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2015 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.