PUEBLO, Colo. – The rest of the sports world should be taking notice of a 34-year-old bull rider from Leme, Brazil.
No, this isn’t because 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi is the muscular, stud on the cover of “Men’s Fitness” magazine or because he was a star on the Emmy-nominated documentary series, “Fearless,” last year.
And, yes, he may even be a better dancer than Bonner Bolton if “Dancing with The Stars” were to give Marchi a shot once his riding days are over.
In all seriousness, though, Marchi is much-more than a crazy cowboy that decides to show up at an amateur rodeo for a shot at winning bar money for the rest of weekend.
He is a proven champion at the highest level of competition in his sport.
Marchi is not only a legend in Western sports and a future PBR Hall of Famer, but he is an international sports icon after becoming the first rider in PBR history to record 600 qualified rides on the illustrious Built Ford Tough Series.
How does Marchi’s 600 rides not deserve to be ranked alongside the likes of record-holders Jerry Rice (22,895 career receiving yards), Wayne Gretzky (894 goals), Peyton Manning (539 touchdowns), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points) and Barry Bonds (762 home runs)?
It may be even more likely that Marchi could catch a pass in the NFL than Rice being able to ride a 2,000-pound animal.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray wants the entire world to understand just how special Marchi’s recent accomplishment last weekend in Billings, Montana, really was.
Every sports fan has heard of Jerry Rice, so why shouldn’t Guilherme Marchi’s name be synonymous with those other sports heroes?
“600 rides is incredible,” Murray said. “You talk about Jerry Rice and Jerry Rice is incredible. This isn’t Jerry Rice land, this is way freaking harder. That is the part to me that America misses. I am not saying that in a condescending way, but this is the message we are trying to get out. He really is a special athlete. To be able to do something this physically and mentally demanding for this long.
“It takes a special person to do this.”
Marchi is 600-for-1,070 (56.07 percent) with 51 90-point rides, 24 event wins and three 15/15 Bucking Battle victories in his 14-year career.
It is a fascinating feat, especially considering only 3 percent of bull riders even record 100 qualified rides in their career, according to Slade Long of ProBullStats.
Marchi and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee are the only two riders with 500 rides and 1,000 outs at the BFTS level, and Marchi has the second-highest riding percentage all time among riders with at least 500 BFTS outs.
The 34-year-old is one of only seven riders to have a World Championship and World Finals event buckle on his resume. The other six riders are three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis, 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes, Lee and 1998 World Champion Troy Dunn.
Rice, Gretzky, Manning, Jabbar and Bonds were all once-in-a-generation athletes during their careers, and Marchi is certainly in that same category when it comes to professional bull riding.
While it is unlikely that Marchi, currently in his 14th PBR season, will compete for 20-plus seasons like Rice, Gretzky, Bonds or Abdul-Jabbar, he still has at least this year – and possibly another two or three more – to add to his record number.
Lee says he plans on reaching 600 rides, but he is only at 519 qualified rides and has two more seasons of wear and tear on his body than Marchi.
Therefore, even if Lee, who is also 34 years old, does reach 600 rides, he may not be able to catch Marchi’s record if Marchi continues to ride for another couple of seasons.
The next guy in line is Mauney with 494 qualified rides. Mauney is four years younger than Marchi and is likely three to four seasons away from possibly reaching 600 rides if he so desires.
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride owns a series of PBR records, including career event wins (32) and wins in one season (eight), but he believes Marchi’s all-time rides record may be the best record of all.
McBride was willing to put 600 rides ahead of Chris Shivers’ 90-point ride record, Bushwacker’s streak of 42 consecutive buckoffs, Adriano Moraes and Alves’ three gold buckles and his own records.
“It is a record that can possibly stand forever, or at least as long as I live,” McBride said. “600 rides. That has a lot of meat on the bone there. That stands the test of time. The changes in the sport. That is one that is still going to stay there.
“The record itself is amazing, but everything that goes into that to get it. He was the World Champion clear back in 2008. He won the World Finals in 2005. This guy has been doing it a long time, and doing it at a high level. He is not a guy that has ever been cut from the tour or anything. He has always been a guy that is relevant, even when he was struggling.”
When Alves won his record-setting third world title, it involved a portion of his PBR-record 24 consecutive rides on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Alves has 344 qualified rides on the BFTS and tipped his hat to Marchi’s accomplishment.
“600 rides in the PBR is the best record,” Alves said. “It is really hard because PBR rank bulls are really tough.”
The marquee number may also just be the staple of Marchi’s career.
“He will always be in the conversation as one of the greatest all time in the PBR,” McBride said. Not only because of being a World Champion, winning the World Finals, but for 600. To me, that is the biggest one.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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