DALLAS – It has been five years since Joao Ricardo Vieira left his native Brazil and came to the United States in search of bull riding eternity with $15,000.
These days, Vieira calls Decatur, Texas, home and there is no secret that the two-time Iron Cowboy champion and 2016 bull riding champion at THE AMERICAN rodeo has etched his name into the record books for his success on one of the biggest stages in all of Western sports.
However, even though Vieira has over $350,000 reasons to love the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the 32-year-old actually has a special affection for a small Brazilian steakhouse 20 miles west of AT&T Stadium in Fort Worth.
Vieira and his wife, Rosimara, and daughter, Maria Clara, will often make the 45-minute drive from Decatur to Rafain’s Steakhouse for a nice dinner.
Outside of AT&T Stadium, the Brazilian steakhouse is Vieira’s favorite place in the Dallas metro area.
In a state that is well known for its barbeque, Vieira likes to trade in the Texas dry rub and barbeque sauce for a traditional Churrasco barbeque with salt-seasoned ribeyes, ribs and chicken variations.
It is almost a taste of home for the Itatiba, Brazil, native.
“I like barbeques in Dallas,” Vieira said with a big smile. “They have good barbeque. My favorite is Rafain’s. It is 40 minutes from my house. In Brazil, it is a fire and you barbeque on (charcoal) stones. There is no propane. Brazilian barbeque is just salt. No sauce. It is so good. No pepper. Just salt. I like Ribs, chicken, ribeye’s. My favorite is ribeye.”
Churrascaria-style restaurants are extremely popular in Brazil. Waiters move around the restaurant with skewers of grilled meat, offering as much as one can eat.
Vieira easily can afford as much ribeye as his heart desires these days, but he would love to head back to Rafain’s to celebrate a third Iron Cowboy title next week.
Vieira won back-to-back Iron Cowboy titles in 2014-15, and last year he finished runner-up to Shane Proctor. To make up for his failure at winning a third consecutive Iron Cowboy, Vieira did the next best thing by winning the $100,000 bull riding event at THE AMERICAN last year.
“I am excited because I like this place,” Vieira said. “I stay at home and it is near home. I think I have good luck in the arena. The arena likes me too, I think. I really don’t know. I am focused the same at all of the events, but I feel strong in the arena. It is my favorite. It is a big arena. It is beautiful. I get to ride good bulls and get good money.”
Vieira’s quest at winning a second consecutive AMERICAN bull riding title will occur on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium, but Vieira first has his sights set on Saturday night’s Iron Cowboy.
Fans can watch the conclusion of the Frontier Communications Iron Cowboy, presented by Kawasaki, on CBS national television Sunday at noon ET.
No rider has ever won Iron Cowboy and THE AMERICAN in the same weekend.
“It would be very special for my life as a cowboy,” Vieira said. “It is a big event in Texas. All of the people see this. It is very important to all of the cowboys to win Iron Cowboy or The AMERICAN. It is a good event.”
Vieira has drawn Lost Soul for Round 1. Lost Soul bucked off Vieira last year in 3.58 seconds at the Little Rock, Arkansas, Built Ford Tough Series event.
He is currently 19th in the world standings and trails world leader Jess Lockwood by 1,347.5 points.
Vieira is 9-for-21 (42.86 percent) this season.
However, Vieira has started slow before.
Vieira was ranked 26th in the world standings before he won the 2015 Iron Cowboy title, while he entered the 2014 and 2016 events sitting in third place.
“I think this year can be the same,” Vieira said. “I need to ride bulls at AT&T Stadium. I think this is the start of the season. Iron Cowboy is more important because after is the start of the season. I need to get points for the fight for the World Championship.”
When he says new season, Vieira is referencing how riders from last year’s Top 30 will only have one more guaranteed event before being subjected to the BFTS cutline following this weekend. Once eight BFTS events are officially in the books, all draws for the season will be based upon the 2017 world standings.
Therefore, Vieira looks at the middle of February as an important time of year to really make sure he is clicking on all cylinders. It is one point in the season where the world standings start to take shape and World Champion contenders start to try and position themselves for a run at the $1 million title.
Then, of course, there is the fact that Iron Cowboy is a PBR Major with one rider being able to walk away with a maximum of 1,250 points toward the world standings and a minimum payday of $100,000.
Vieira has finished inside the Top 5 of the world standings every year of his career. The fifth-year veteran has won almost everything possible in his career outside of a World Championship or World Finals title.
“I am happy for all of the years I tried my best,” Vieira said. “I focused during the season. I am no World Champion. I have not won the World Finals, but all the time I am trying my best. I am focused and putting in hard work.
“My goal this year is Top 3 in the world,” Vieira concluded. “I want to win the World Championship, but I fight to be victorious in the Top 3. That would be good too.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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