By Covy Moore
22 April 2016
At 27-years-old, Monty Phillips is reasonably young for the cowboy protection game in Canadian rodeo and bull riding.
With the recent retirement of long time and respected bullfighters Scott Byrne last year, and Dave Sandilands shortly before him, there are a big couple of pairs of cleats to fill.
Phillips started fighting bulls at the age of 15, and now with 12 years of experience fighting and 6 years holding his pro card, he hopes to break into some of Canada’s biggest rodeos.
“(They) definitely had a lot of rodeos, fought a lot of performances during the year. It’s tough cause there are great kids coming up getting their permits, and guys like me getting older and we have to hunt those shows,” said Phillips. “A guy has to be really aggressive to get those jobs filled.”
With a love of rodeo firmly ingrained in him, he has his career goals set out.
“To me, when I have made it in Canada as one of the best is when I am standing in the Calgary Stampede arena, Ponoka Stampede and the CFR. There are a lot of great rodeos around, those just standout for me. They are the biggest rodeos we have, with the most performances,” Phillips said.
“It will be a walk in the park from there. I go every year to watch the (Calgary Stampede), and the feelings and the vibes you get around there is the greatest. The greatest in Canada are there all week, the old boys who used to rodeo come and watch and talk about it. It’s the best feeling around to be at those big rodeos.”
The bullfighting environment has exploded in the last year, with the creation and expansion of US based Bullfighters Only, founded by Canadian Aaron Ferguson. With a full calendar of BFO events in Canada this season, Phillips said he is excited for the future.
“This year is going to be real different for us guys who are bullfighting in Canada. There will be 10 to 12 events in Canada this year. We went from zero,” Phillips said. “We get to go and compete against the best in the world in Las Vegas in what is our event. It has been a long time coming.”
Phillips admitted that while the competitive bullfighting scene explodes, he is putting a bit more stock in fighting at rodeos.
“I like protection a lot more. Freestyle is just lots of fun to me. I am very quick on my feet so it comes naturally. Reading hot bulls is very important to what we do cause eventually we will all get stuck in the arena with a bull. You have to get good at it.”
And good at it he was. Phillips entered the Lamont BFO event and took home the title over newcomer Justin Walker and the winner of the first BFO in Red Deer Kris Buffalo.
A proper qualification process has not been announced by BFO yet, but after Buffalo’s win in Red Deer he was immediately sent down to the RFD-TV’s The American.
“It was a good experience for him and as a rookie, the nerves would be overwhelming to handle. He did a good job, he represented Canada very well,” Phillips said.
“A kid like that, he has probably only freestyled ten bulls legitimately, and that guy came out and flat footed a Mexican (fighting bull). He wanted to win. He put out an outstanding effort. A little more experience and time and that kid will be really good.”
With the win at Lamont, Phillips isn’t sure what it may qualify him for, but he said he will be on the phone and showing some of the US guys footage with hopes of getting an entry into one of the big shows down south.