BILLINGS, Mont. – No one inside Rimrock Auto Arena had to look any further to see the love, joy and passion that 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi has for the sport of professional bull riding on Saturday night.
Marchi couldn’t hold back the tears any longer as he received a commemorative Montana Silversmiths belt buckle honoring his 600th career ride on the Built Ford Tough Series minutes after riding Shocker for 86.25 points in Round 2 of the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires.
The 14-year veteran had proudly been wearing his 500th career rides belt buckle all weekend long in Billings, Montana, but becoming the first rider in PBR history to reach 600 rides was emotionally overwhelming.
Marchi’s latest accomplishment was another reward for the endless amount of hard work and dedication the 34-year-old has demonstrated in the PBR since making his BFTS debut on August 6, 2004, in Oklahoma City.
“I feel so happy to reach this number,” Marchi said outside of the rider locker room. “I feel like I won a gold buckle again. This is a lot for me. Everything I have done in my career. I know this is hard for everyone, but when we dream hard, and you work hard, anything is possible.”
Marchi began his historic night by arriving at the arena at 4:30 p.m. and beginning to rosin his white bull rope, which he was only using for the second time. His infamous grin and vociferous personality out in full force.
It wasn’t until 8:15 pm. when the magnitude of the moment began to overwhelm him.
Marchi was on the back of the bucking chutes waiting for his turn to ride when he closed his eyes and began to let out deep, deep breathes. Five minutes later, Marchi exhaled again, pumped his chest and let out a big yell.
However, Marchi then became silent once he was staring down at Shocker.
Three-time World Champion Silvano Alves even asked Marchi why he had become so quiet.
Marchi responded, “I have had such a blessed career. I need to thank God for keeping me here and strong. I am 34 years old and I am going to be 35 and I still ride. I am glad I push myself hard to still be one of the top bull riders.”
Once he got inside the bucking chute, though, Marchi was back at home in a familiar environment that has helped him earn $4.9 million dollars in his career.
The pressure may have been weighing on him, but the 8,975 fans in attendance were ready to fuel him past the unridden Shocker (4-0, BFTS / 13-0 overall) as they all rose to their feet.
Marchi finished taking his wrap, glanced up at the crowd with a slight grin and then nodded for the gate.
The rest was history - even after a judges' review put the moment on hold for a brief minute.
Marchi gritted his way toward the 8-second mark away from his hand with the same determination that will forever be associated with his career.
“This took many years on the road. Many years in the PBR,” Marchi said. “I feel what my fans are feeling today too. It is fun because they are there for you. They wanted to see the record broken.
“The PBR fans opened their arms for me and I feel like their son today.”
Marchi also credited his family and girlfriend for being so supportive of him during his pursuit of history.
“My daddy and momma taught me to be thankful for everything because life is hard,” he added. “People is hard, but you need to learn from people and respect people.”
Alves gave Marchi a big hug as he exited the arena.
“He is the best cowboy,” Alves said. “He is a PBR legend. It is hard for any cowboy to ride 600. He is one of the best of all time and is always in the Top 10. This is very special. The Built Ford Tough Series is the best of the best.”
Marchi’s 600th ride comes 4,586 days – 12 years 6 months and 22 days – since recording the first ride of his career (85.5 points on Arizona) in Laughlin, Nevada, on September 17, 2004.
It is also only 37 months and a day since Marchi became the first rider in PBR history to reach 500 qualified rides when he rode Pandora’s Pyxis in Phoenix in 2014.
“I remember when I reached 500 bulls, I didn’t think about too much,” Marchi said. “It was just kind of normal for me. This means more. There was a lot of pressure.”
2004 World Champion Mike Lee, who earned career ride 500 last year in Billings, is the only other rider to surpass the 500-ride mark with Marchi.
Marchi has accomplished everything there is to win in the PBR and said 600 rides is the third greatest accomplishment of his career behind winning the 2008 world title, and the 2005 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
In 2008, Marchi put forth one of the best seasons in PBR history by riding a remarkable 72.55 percent of his bulls (74-for-102), winning five events and posting 13 90-point rides.
Marchi’s world title came after three consecutive runner-up finishes and he would once again finish second in the world standings in 2012.
Only twice in his career has he finished outside of the Top 10 of the world standings.
Marchi is 600-for-1,068 (56.18 percent) with 51 90-point rides, 24 event wins and three 15/15 Bucking Battle victories in his 14-year career.
According to ProBullStats, 104 of his 600 rides have come in the championship round and 15/15 Bucking Battles.
PBR co-founder and nine-time World Champion Ty Murray called the 600-ride mark an “incredible” accomplishment.
“Guilherme really is a special athlete,” Murray said. “To be able to do something this physically and mentally demanding for this long takes a special person. You have seen guys that can’t do this for two months. They can’t handle the mental aspect of this sport. Let alone the physical.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert added, “It is huge. There are very few people in the world that have been on 600 bulls that he has qualified on. It means he has had a really long career and he still belongs at this place at the highest-level for all these years.
“Right now, he has it going really well and he belongs in the Top 10 (of the world standings).
Marchi nearly retired following the 2015 season after tearing ligaments in both his knees and his riding arm in a span of four months.
“I almost did retire because of my situation,” Marchi admitted. “I was tired. I was hurt, but when you believe in yourself you can do whatever you want to do.”
Three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes called Marchi the “fittest bull rider of all time” and credited his former traveling mate for continuing to strive to be the best.
“Guilherme Marchi reaching 600 qualified rides is an impressive number,” Moraes said. “This feat of 600 rides is not for everyone. It is just for an enduring cowboy like Guilherme. He is a fit, healthy cowboy. This proves being an athlete is worth it. Guilherme at 34 can continue to ride these rank bulls so well –ranker and much ranker than when I rode.
“What stands out to me is his age and physical condition. That is why it is a testimony of being healthy and being a true athlete.”
Marchi believes he can now ride for possibly another 2-3 years and make a run at 700 rides.
“When you put in your mind you are going to retire, that is the time because you are tired and you don’t enjoy it anymore,” Marchi said. “I still enjoy this. I still do this for fun. Maybe next year I retire. Maybe two years. We will see how my performance is.
“I could retire at the end of the Finals this year. We will see.”
Regardless of when Marchi decides to call it a career, he has once again added another legendary chapter to his future Ring of Honor inductee novel.
“I am glad of all the numbers in my career,” Marchi concluded. “I am blessed all of my dreams have come true.
“I am one of the best bull riders all time.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2017 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.