By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Dener Barbosa has a simple reply when asked about his 2021 surge up the world standings.
The No. 5-ranked bull rider in the world standings won his first career 15/15 Bucking Battle this past weekend at the PBR Union Home Mortgage Invitational by conquering the previously undefeated Marquis Metal Works Red Clark for 91.25 points. He followed that with an 88.5-point ride on CopperPoint Swagger – a bull who sent Barbosa to a Billings, Montana, hospital last year with a broken jaw and skull and a concussion.
“This is my first year 100% without any pain or bruises,” Barbosa told PBR.com on Monday morning.
Barbosa also was not worried about selecting CopperPoint Swagger with the seventh pick of the championship round draft. He knew the bull was not the cause of his injuries last season. Rather, his own mistakes were.
“I chose him because he was a great bull, and I needed to ride him again,” Barbosa said.
Barbosa has qualified for four of the past five PBR World Finals and has flirted on the outskirts of the world title race before, but it has been years since he was healthy and confident in his body like he is this year.
That confidence in his physical health is leading to an extra level of determination and grit when it comes to reaching the 8-second mark this year, Barbosa explained.
Last year is the first example. Barbosa won the privately-held Gwinnett Invitational in Duluth, Georgia, to rise to No. 3 in the world standings. He was only 292.5 points behind then-world No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme before he decided to return home to Brazil because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Barbosa was unable to return to the United States until September. His first bull back was none other than CopperPoint Swagger, who knocked him out of competition until the 2020 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals. Barbosa concluded last year ranked 17th in the world standings.
Barbosa had been battling an unstable right shoulder since 2013, a year in which he had the injury surgically repaired in Brazil. A month before the 2016 PBR Brazil Finals, he re-injured his shoulder at the PBR Brazil event in Rio Preto. Barbosa rode for two seasons in the U.S., though, finishing his rookie year (2017) seventh in the world standings and 2018 in 15th.
The 2016 PBR Brazil champion knew he needed to get his shoulder fixed again if he ever wanted to be a PBR World Champion, so he opted for Dr. Tandy Freeman to repair his shoulder in Dallas following the 2018 World Finals.
Barbosa missed the first four months of the 2019 season and struggled in his return, going 9-for-21 and battling an elbow infection. He would ultimately finish 70th in the world standings and miss the World Finals.
Three years ago, Barbosa was the No. 3-ranked bull rider in the world when he broke his foot on March 10 in Duluth, Georgia. He was leading the PBR in qualified rides (19) and riding percentage (67.86%) at the time and appeared set to make a run at the PBR’s $1 million championship. Barbosa underwent surgery to repair three broken bones in his foot, and he would not return to premier series competition for five months, dropping to No. 10 in the world standings. Barbosa would finish 2018 15th in the world standings and never reentered the world title race.
2021 and beyond…
Barbosa is currently 289.67 points behind the red-hot world No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme ahead of the next UTB event on May 14-16 in Billings, Montana.
The 27-year-old has a career riding percentage of 49.34% (113-for-229), but three of his four career 90-point rides have come this season, including his new personal best of 91.25 points on Red Clark.
Barbosa has also ridden six consecutive bulls.
“It was very important for me to break (his streak) of 16 buckoffs,” Barbosa said. “I’m sure I will be remembered for that 8 seconds.”
The ride certainly stood out to two-time World Champion Justin McBride during the CBS national television broadcast.
“This was an outstanding job of not giving up on your ride, because about halfway through this, it was touch and go,” McBride told CBS host Craig Hummer. “There is a good chance he is not coming back from that, and then from this, and it just kept going, but he never gave up. He never lost focus. He never took his eye off the target.”
Professional Bull Riders – PBR UNION HOME MORTGAGE INVITATIONAL 15/15 BUCKING BATTLE
Omaha, NE, 2021 – Event Leaders (Round 1-Event Aggregate-Event Points)
1. Dener Barbosa, 91.25-91.25-59 Points.
2. Junior Patrik Souza, 87.5-87.50-48 Points.
3. Cooper Davis, 78.5-78.50-35 Points.
Kaique Pacheco, 0-0.00
Jose Vitor Leme, 0-0.00
João Ricardo Vieira, 0-0.00
Colten Fritzlan, 0-0.00
Derek Kolbaba, 0-0.00
Silvano Alves, 0-0.00
Mauricio Gulla Moreira, 0-0.00
Keyshawn Whitehorse, 0-0.00
Eduardo Aparecido, 0-0.00
Alex Cerqueira, 0-0.00
Taylor Toves, 0-0.00
Cody Nance, 0-0.00
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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