Reigning BFO world champion knows the sights are set on him for next season. Photo by Todd Brewer.
LAS VEGAS – Only a year ago, Aaron Mercer was in the feeling-out stages of his freestyle bullfighting career.
My, how things have changed. Since he burst onto the scene in April, Mercer has been a dominant force and recently wrapped up the 2019 campaign by claiming the specially designed BFO world champion title belt.
It didn’t come easy. To make it that far in such a short time span, Mercer harnessed an incredible amount of athletic ability. He mixed it with intensified training at BFO Development Camp in Georgia and a lot of hard work, and it paid off to the tune of $121,350 in annual earnings.
“I remember going to Chad Ellison’s for D-Camp feeling so out of place,” said Mercer of Calgary, Alberta. “I didn’t even think they liked me, because I was just a yappy Canadian. Then I went to Ada (Oklahoma), and they realized they had to deal with me.
“I just kept progressing, kept working hard at it. I had lots of people pushing me, and that’s what makes the BFO so great. In every bullfight, I just wanted to do better.”
He was quickly accepted into the strong core of combatants, men who cheer on their opponents while also trying to outscore them. The camaraderie in freestyle bullfighting is unmatched, and Mercer felt that right away.
“I pushed myself to the end, even to the point to where I was wearing myself out and fought poorly,” he said. “I took time off and got my mental game right before Las Vegas. What made it better was I had some great friends, Justin Josey and Colt Oder. They just pushed me to do so much more than I thought I could do.”
He also had the other top bullfighters in the game pushing him at every competition.
“Mercer had a great year,” said Weston Rutkowski, the three-time world champion from Haskell, Texas. “He’s been consistent all year, and that’s what you like to see. You want to go up against guys like that. That’s why I fight in the BFO.”
Mercer was definitely that guy in 2019. He entered the year-end championship with $61,350 in earnings, then added $10,000 to that on the first day by winning the Roughy Cup. That was enough to secure his world championship before the bulk of the Las Vegas Championship began.
“Mercer has been lights out all year,” said Beau Schueth of O’Neill, Nebraska. “He has been able to stay healthy and go to all the events he wanted to. That’s a deadly combination. It’s not that he just went to the, but he did really good at all of them.”
It’s all about the passion and drive he’s gained in the last year competing at the most elite level in freestyle bullfighting.
“We love it; we live for it. There’s no better feeling than tearing up a bull,” he said figuratively. “I was lucky to train with (Dusty) Tuckness for a couple of weeks before Vegas. He helped me crisp up some things.
“That ultimately saved my ass, and that saved me going into the finals. I’m definitely going back to his place for more workouts. They are more ‘kill you’ workouts, but it’s all for the greater good. There’s a reason why Tuck’s the greatest of all time.”
Mercer would like to add his name to the list of bullfighting greats, which includes many of the BFO pioneers. He’s got a lot of work to do though, as his career is still in its infancy.
Nonetheless, he has a big target on his back heading into the 2020 season.
“This just means I’ve got to do that much more work to stay on top,” he said. “I’ve always had confidence going into the bull ring. There’s fear in everybody’s eyes, so you’ve just got to overcome it.
“Now, somebody else wants that damn title belt. Bring it on. I hope they’re working as hard as I am.”
The biggest lesson he’s taken since signing up to be part of the BFO: those who handle business outside of the arena fare better inside of the arena. By harnessing that knowledge, he’s been able to progress extremely quickly as he heads into his sophomore season.
“I’m also very receptive to watching movements, mimicking movements,” Mercer said. “I watch the greats. I watch the best going. I try to take that into what I do as a bullfighter.
“I watch Beau Schueth every day. I watch Tuckness, Cody Webster. I watch Josey and Weston. I want to put all that into my tool bag. I say 2020 is going to be a year to remember. It’s going to be the best year Bullfighters Only has ever had, and I’m excited to be part of it.”