PUEBLO, Colo. – Robson Palermo needed over 40 stitches in his cheek this past weekend in New York after sustaining a serious facial laceration that could have easily been life-threatening if Dream Catcher had cut him a few inches lower and slit his throat.
It was the latest run of injuries in Palermo’s career, and the 35-year-old does not want his lasting legacy to be that of a washed-up bull rider who kept putting himself in harm’s way.
Instead, Palermo – a PBR record-holder with three PBR World Finals event wins – wants to be remembered as one of the best bull rider’s to ever nod his head in Las Vegas.
Dream Catcher may have ended Palermo’s weekend in New York prematurely, but Palermo is still a dreamer and believes he can ride like a Top-5 bull rider and qualify for an 11th PBR World Finals someday.
Palermo believes he still has something left in the tank, but he is also realistic and knows he has only ridden five out of his last 28 bulls at all levels of PBR competition the last two years.
Therefore, Palermo has decided to take a break from the PBR and work on his game at the PRCA level and some jackpot rodeos in Texas.
“I don’t want to retire right now,” Palermo said. “I know I still have a couple of years to go. I have been hurt so much, and I want to stay home a little bit with my family and kids. I want to take my kids to the rodeo, and I want to try going to a different place. I don’t want to say I am going straight to the PRCA, but I am going to try. I need to try and fix myself and ride some bulls. When I am doing good, I will come back and do well.”
Palermo’s family has been a big factor in his decision-making. He was going to attempt to ride on Saturday in New York before his wife, Priscila, convinced him to not put himself in further danger.
It has been a struggle for Robson to come home and see the concern on his kids’ faces too.
“It has been hard for my kids watching me come back from bull ridings hurt,” Palermo said. “Bull riding is a hard sport in life and I don’t want my kids to see that and feel like that. I don’t want to come home with a nose broke, a black eye, my face cut and swollen.”
Palermo has made it clear that this is not a PBR retirement, such as Shane Proctor or J.W. Harris’ recent announcements, but rather a temporary break.
He is adamant about retiring on his own terms someday, and he is determined to ride again on the PBR 25th: Unleash the Beast Series, potentially as early as later this year or in 2019.
Palermo is just tired of embarrassing himself in front of his fans too.
“It has been really hard for me, being hurt all the time,” Palermo said. “It is not good for the fans watching. All the people think, ‘You are hurt so much.’
“I want to take off a little bit and fix my mind and all that stuff. I will come back good. I am not retiring right now.”
2018 has not gone as planned for Palermo, who had bucked off three bulls at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour level before New York.
It was only the latest blow to his confidence after he only competed in six premier series events in 2017 because of a left knee and right shoulder injury. Palermo also dealt with depression and thought about walking away from bull riding completely.
Palermo knows he can’t compete in the PBR if he isn’t confident, and right now he certainly is not.
“It is mental,” Palermo said. “I was talking to Adriano. He retired and I asked, ‘What were you thinking?’
“I have been on this ball for two years and thinking about how I do not want to retire. I feel like I don’t want to retire. My heart loves riding in the PBR. I don’t want to leave like that. Right now, if I said I am retiring, I know I would come back.”
Regardless of his recent struggles, Palermo is already one of the greatest bull riders to nod his head in PBR history.
Not only is Palermo the only three-time World Finals event winner, but he is also the only back-to-back World Finals champion (2011-2012). Palermo has a 56.14-percent riding percentage at the PBR’s season-culminating event.
Palermo has won 13 premier series events, ridden 310 bulls on the elite tour and his 37 90-point rides on the premier series is third among active riders.
The Rio Branco, Brazil, bull rider was a perennial world title contender from 2007 through 2012 before multiple shoulder surgeries three years in a row and permanent nerve damage in his riding arm forever altered his career.
He never gave up, though, and still qualified for the World Finals three consecutive years after undergoing season ending surgery in 2013.
Still, he has struggled with no longer being the same rider. In his mind, he is still that Top-5 bull rider. His body has said otherwise.
“I just want to relax,” Palermo said. “I have been putting so much pressure on myself to be Top-5 or Top-10. I used to be riding in the Top-10 every year. The last three years I was Top 100. I have been low on the list and it was getting to me. When I go to events, I want to be competitive. I want to be right.”
Palermo’s heart during his final three World Finals appearances, which featured him scratching and clawing his away to Las Vegas as he bounced between the Velocity Tour and the premier series, is a reminder that you can’t count Palermo out until he counts himself out.
In 2016, Palermo truly thought he was going to win the PBR World Finals for a fourth time.
He would have retired right then, and that is still his ultimate goal and dream.
“Before I hurt my knee (at the Finals), I really 100 percent thought I was going to win the Finals again,” Palermo said. “I said, ‘I am going to win the Finals and stop on that date.’
“I still really want to try and do that. I want to see if (rodeoing) is the solution. If not, I stop. If I refresh my mind, I will continue. If I cannot, then no more and I will retire. But not right now.”
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