From: Mooresville, North Carolina
World Finals mentality: Let it all hang out. I go for broke every time, and I just keep the gas pedal mashed to the floor.
The massive crowd: The best bulls in the championship round, that gate opens, you don’t hear nothing. If you’re riding bulls and you’re thinking about it and you can hear stuff, then you’re usually getting up off the ground because he’s already thrown you off.
Broncs vs. bulls: Bull riding, if you’re in the right spot and you’re doing everything right, it’s smooth. Bareback horses, it doesn’t matter if you’re riding them right or wrong or however you’re doing it, it still hurts.
Injuries: If I was worried about getting hurt, I probably wouldn’t have chosen riding bulls for a living. If it’s your time, it’s your time.
Cowboy attitude: A lot of the fans, they think I’m kinda on the cocky side. And I always tell them, I’m not cocky, but you’re riding bulls for a living—you gotta be confident in yourself. When I show up, I got it in my head that there’s not a bull there that can throw me off.
Joao Ricardo Vieira
From: Itatinga, São Paulo, Brazil
The feeling of bull riding: I feel very courageous, like a superhero. It’s an ability and a talent that God gave me to be able to ride bulls, which I don’t think is for everyone. I also don’t think it’s going to last forever.
His pet bull: He’s like my dog.
Worst injury: When I broke my sternum I was out for 40 days. That happened in Brazil years ago.
World Finals mentality: I want to get there and be able to get on difficult bulls, cover them and win a lot of money. It’s hard to beat J.B. Mauney; he’s already the champion. With the new system, it will be very difficult for Kaique Pacheco or me to pass him. I just need to get there and be able to win every day and win the event—at least be the event champion of the finals.
Why he rides: Since I was small I enjoyed watching bull riding, and after I tried it, I enjoyed it more every time. I love riding bulls—the adrenaline, the emotion, the challenge to ride, that’s the love I have for bull riding.
From: São Paulo, Brazil
Growing up in the sport: My father rode; my uncles rode; my grandfathers were stock contractors. I grew up in it watching them, and it’s what I love to do.
Preparation: I go to the gym to exercise, and I also practice on the floor as if I were riding. I close my eyes and imagine that I am riding.
Favorite part of riding bulls: The full eight seconds. When they open that door, when he starts to pull and I can watch every movement and pull he makes, it’s a unique sensation.
Brazilian bulls vs. American bulls: The bulls from Brazil are stronger, bigger and slower. The bulls here are faster, and instead of getting weaker as the ride goes, they get harder.
What it’s like being one of the youngest riders in the World Finals: For me, this is a great realization. Since I was young I would watch PBR videos of the guys that were here: J.B., Justin McBride, Chris Shivers. I would tell myself: One day, my name will be with them; one day I will ride with them. It is a great achievement for me.
From: Columbia Falls, Montana
Bulls as athletes: The bulls are tremendous athletes. Just like in the horse industry, where you go to the Kentucky Derby and you’re going to see these horses that are bred so well to run, these bulls are bred to buck and they love it. A lot of people don’t think they get treated good, but this is a $100,000 to $1 million bull that we’re talking about, so they get treated better than most of us cowboys do.
Training: I’ll be really sore, just really stiff and tight, so I’ll go to a yoga class and it helps me stay flexible and just loosen up. When I’m in a room that’s 105 degrees, it’s a focus point. Bull riding’s also a focus point. It’s 90 percent mental, and yoga helps with my mental game.
Helmet vs. hat: I just think it’s safer, and when you’re done riding bulls, you don’t want to not be able to feed yourself or do anything.
Fear in the ring: This sport, it’s not how bad you get hurt, it’s when. So the only fear that’s going through my mind when I’m going is failure.
From: May, Texas
Riding in Vegas: If you don’t get pumped up about coming to Vegas, then really there’s no point in you riding bulls. That’s the spot where there’s a lot of pressure. The stakes are always high going to Vegas.
Bad wrecks and brave bullfighters: It’s all reaction time. You’re with three of the best guys there, and you know they’re going to be there right in the middle of it with you.
Those eight slow seconds: When I first started out everything was happening so fast. It’s a hard thing to figure out, but once you get it figured, then everything just becomes slow-motion. You’re not really having to think about it; you’re just reacting, and everything slows down a little.
Greatest strength: There are probably some guys who got more natural talent than me, but my mental side makes up for some talent weaknesses. I’m very strong mentally.
Strategy: It’s best if I don’t know what the bull does. You can catch yourself trying to set traps for ’em. I like going into it blind. If you have to think about it, you’re going to be two jumps behind.