NOV 23, 2016
Bringing Barrel to the Bullfight
LAS VEGAS(Content provided by Bullfighters Only)
The currents that sweep through the river of a freestyle bullfighting arena can be fast and swift.
When in control, the men in the battle can maneuver the rapids well and avoid the jagged rocks. But the bulls can come in on a rush and overtake the situation, and the paddles that propel the bullfighters can be lost in the torrent.
Andy North is the life raft that comes in at the right place and the right time, bringing everything into safety. He’s the barrelman for the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, which takes place Dec. 1-3 and 7-10 in Las Vegas.
“My sole purpose is to provide protection for the bullfighters,” said North of Piedmont, Okla. “I’m out there to help position the barrel in the arena during the bullfight. Whenever I see a guy in trouble, I have to anticipate where and when the wreck is going to happen.”
The festivities kick off at 2 p.m. Dec. 1st at the Las Vegas Convention Center with the BFO Roughy Cup, a 12-man invitational bullfight. Then on Dec. 2-3, up-and-coming bullfighters will battle to qualify for the BFO Las Vegas Championship, which takes place Dec. 7-10 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Tickets are on sale now at HardRockHotel.com and AXS.com.
“When they asked me to be part of that, it was very meaningful to me,” said North, who spent seven years as a freestyle bullfighter before transitioning to the barrel. “It’s pretty special when you have that group of guys who want you to do it.”
He’s earned the right. He worked seven BFO bullfights this year, including the Cavender’s Cup, which was just the second stand-alone event in Bullfighters Only history.
“I like to think what sets me apart is my ability to anticipate where those guys are going to need me and knowing when I need to be there,” he said. “I don’t want to jump in too early and disrupt a good fight, and I don’t want to get in there too late.”
That’s why his role is so important to the bullfighters. They can utilize the barrel during the fight, and they know the life raft is just steps away if they are swimming for safety. While that’s vital, the best part of the job comes with his vantage point.
“I have the best seat in the house,” North said. “I’m right there with those guys, and I get to see and experience their bullfights with them. It doesn’t have to be a hellacious barrel save. What I like most is getting to witness something glorious, being part of it and being close to it.
“I think the BFO is doing a good job with the product they put out. There’s a lot of excitement with Bullfighters Only, and I enjoy working them.”
Freestyle bullfighting has been around for years, but Bullfighters Only has marketed and produced the game to expand interest in it. It’s working. The Las Vegas events will serve as the one-year anniversary of the first BFO fights, so the interest is there.
Additionally, and maybe more importantly, this year the BFO will crown the first true freestyle bullfighting world champion in more than 16 years. Bullfighters Only showcases the top talent in the industry.
“People will be on the edge of their seats,” North said. “For somebody that’s never seen it, it’s so fast and so electric. It’s action-packed. There’s part of it that’s unknown, and you don’t realize how quickly things can go south. I think that keeps you involved and ready for anything.
It gets even bigger in the City of Lights. Las Vegas is well known for having world-class bouts. Now Bullfighters Only is producing another world-class fight for all to see.
“That money’s big,” North said of the $50,000 purse. “I think the location is a big thing. The venues are awesome. I think being the time of year – during the same two weeks as the National Finals Rodeo – is one of those things that makes it a true highlight. Everybody’s going to come in and be ready to go.
“Being in Vegas at that time pushes everything up. It’s better. When you look at the lineup of bullfighters, those guys aren’t messing around. They’re bringing in some guys that will straight up get after it. I like watching the quality of bullfighting that’s going to be there.”
So will everyone else that makes it part of their time in Las Vegas.