By: Justin Felisko
October 19, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney has made a reputation throughout his 11-year career of being a dragon slayer.
Fearless and unintimidated by the PBR’s rankest bulls, Mauney has stepped on top of the shark cage repeatedly and selected the toughest bovines, including the likes of three-time World Champion Bushwacker, 2012 World Champion Asteroid and Jared Allen’s Air Time.
Mauney wouldn’t go as far as calling world leader Cooper Davis or world No. 2 Kaique Pacheco as the equivalent to Bushwacker or Air Time, but the 29-year-old Built Ford Tough Series veteran sure as hell knows he has his work cut out if he hopes to repeat as World Champion this season.
“Oh, it is different,” Mauney replied. “You are not up against a guy when you show up to these deals. You have to ride your bulls.”
Despite the good sportsmanship, the reality is Mauney will have to fend off Davis and Pacheco, and possibly others, if he hopes to win a record-tying third World Championship.
The Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy is third in the world standings right on the heels of the 22-year-old superstars. He is 520 points behind Davis and a victory in Tucson could propel him back into the world No. 1 ranking ahead of the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
The Take The Money and Ride, presented by Ak-Chin Indian Community, begins Saturday night at the Tucson Convention Center. Fans can watch Round 1 beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.
“When you got guys that are just as hungry as you are riding really good, they push you to step up your game because if you are going to have a chance at all to win it, you have to keep pace with those guys,” Mauney said. “When you have somebody pushing you like that, it makes you perform better. In any sport, if you are up against somebody that is doing just as good as you – wants it – and is doing really good, then most athletes up their game. If you are an athlete, one thing every athlete has in common is nobody likes losing.”
You could argue the three riders have rarely lost since the BFTS resumed in August.
Combined, the trio has won seven (58.33 percent) of the 12 BFTS and 15/15 Bucking Battles since Aug. 19, while also finishing in second-place on five occasions.
Davis leads the way with four wins, including his 15/15 Bucking Battle victory in San Jose, and two-second-place finishes.
Pacheco has won two events, including the 15/15 Bucking Battle in Eugene, Oregon, and has posted an additional five Top-5 finishes.
Then Mauney, who had to miss three events, won the Nampa, Idaho, event crown and posted three additional second-place finishes.
Mauney went 3-for-3 in San Jose, California, last weekend for one of those second places. He rode Lifting Lives for 86.5 points in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“J.B. Mauney has such a great feel, which is one of the hardest things to explain in bull riding, but it is one of the most important things,” two-time World Champion Justin McBride said during the CBS Sports Network broadcast. “He has developed it over a life time of doing this.”
Mauney compared being pushed by Davis and Pacheco to how he went about challenging McBride in the late 2000s. In 2007, Mauney finished third in the world standings as McBride won his second gold buckle.
“Well, it is bull riding,” Mauney said. “Back when I was first coming around, it was me and (Justin) McBride first and second. He would ride, I would ride and we pushed each other to do good. That is how it is now. When you got guys on you like that, like Kaique and Cooper, that is when it gets fun. When the race gets tight – the race gets good – everybody gets into it. Fans are all rearing to go. This is a pretty good time.”
Mauney went 3-for-3 last year to beat out Pacheco, who also went 3-for-3, in Tucson and extend his lead over No. 2 Joao Ricardo Vieira and No. 3 Pacheco to over 1,000 points heading into the 2015 BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals.
He has drawn Mister Mean (7-0, BFTS) in Round 1 on Saturday night.
Mauney wouldn’t delve into whether or not the 2016 title race would be harder for him than last year or 2013.
Instead, he is focused on the road ahead.
“I don’t know,” Mauney concluded. “I tend not to worry about what happened last year or anything. I tend to look at what I have to do right now. It will all come down to the Finals. As long as you lay everything on the table, you can just let the chips fall where they may.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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