The battle for the Bullfighters Only world title will culminate in Sin City. Photo by Todd Brewer
LAS VEGAS – For the past three years, Weston Rutkowski has been the figurehead that every man in Bullfighters Only has strived to unseat during the 10-day Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship.
The target has shifted heading into this year’s grand-finale, which takes place Dec. 5-14 at the Tropicana Las Vegas. Aaron Mercer of Calgary, Alberta, leads the BFO Pendleton Whisky World Standings with $61,350 in 2019 earnings and carries a $23,000 plus lead over second-place Rutkowski.
“I am pumped – very excited,” said Mercer, who will be competing in Las Vegas for the first time. “I’ve got to bring my A game, perform as good, if not better, than I have all year.”
He’s eyeing a one-of-a-kind championship belt that goes to the winner, handcrafted by RB Buckles and Ride Hard Leather. His performance has been spectacular since bursting onto the scene in April, and he has a chance to add to it at the Tropicana this December.
“Mercer has been fighting lights out all year, and he’s drawn really good,” said Beau Scheuth, the No. 6 bullfighter in the standings from O’Neill, Nebraska. “He’s 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 them, but he did really good at all of them.
“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 want to fight in the BFO.”
Rutkowski knows he’s gone from the hunted to the hunter, and he’s OK with that. He knows the opportunities await him over the next few days in the Nevada desert.
“Mercer’s had a great year, but because you had a great year doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a world title,” said Rutkowski of Haskell, Texas. “There are 10 days in Vegas, and it’s going to come down to what you do in Vegas. There’s a lot of money to be won.
“I know as far as when it comes down to the last few events, usually the one who does the best at those will win the title. I’m going to try to fight my bulls and be fundamentally sound.”
That sounds easier than it is, though. In freestyle bullfighting, there are tremendous variables. The pressure is intense, and it intensifies with the fact that it is broadcast around the world on Facebook. Throw in some of the baddest bulls in the game, and anything can happen.
Money is the name of the game and dollars equal championship points. The bullfighter who finishes the season with the most money will win the world title. That’s why Vegas is such a vital part to the race for the championship; over a hundred thousand dollars are up for grabs in Sin City.
“This year was totally different for me because I got hurt in April and missed a few bullfights,” Scheuth said. “It’s a longshot for me to win the title, but there’s still a possibility.”
The year was vastly different for Rutkowski, who has been a dominant force in the BFO since its inception. Two years ago, he became the first freestyle bullfighter in the sport’s history to cross $100,000 in a single year, and he repeated that feat again last year.
“I work hard, day in and day out, to be a world champion,” he said. “This is why I wake up every day and what I think about when I go to bed every night. I’m behind right now, but that’s just fueling my fire. I can’t wait to get to Vegas and see what happens.”