Billings 15/15 Preview: Kolbaba returning from torn ACL

Derek Kolbaba hasn't competed since March 2. Photo: Andy Watson/


  • Derek Kolbaba is returning from a torn right ACL and MCL this weekend in Billings, Montana.
  • Kolbaba missed six weeks because of the injury.
  • The No. 14 ranked rider is 1,300 points behind world leader Ramon de Lima.

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PUEBLO, Colo. – For as much fun as Derek Kolbaba had being a part of the RidePass broadcast team this past weekend in Tacoma, Washington, the 21-year-old bull rider had one thing on his mind by the time Kaique Pacheco was marching his way to the top of the shark cage.

“Man, I like competition and I like to win,” Kolbaba said. “I am excited to get back at it and am looking forward to it.”

Kolbaba will be competing in his first event since tearing his right ACL and MCL six weeks ago when he nods for the gate at this weekend’s Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Billings, Montana.

The No. 14 bull rider in the world standings had torn his knee ligaments during his 89-point ride aboard Bottoms Up in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Kolbaba has spent the last four weeks rehabbing his knee once he learned from Dr. Tandy Freeman that he would not need to undergo surgery.

“I worked out a lot,” Kolbaba said. “I rode the bike a lot and did a lot of one-legged exercises to get that stability back in the joint. That is what I was focusing on. Kind of take what that ligament did holding my knee together and just kind of strengthening those muscles that do that as well.”

Kolbaba has drawn Heartbreak Kid for the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Saturday night.

Fans can watch the 15/15 Bucking Battle on CBS national television Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

15/15 Bucking Battle Matchups

Dakota Buttar vs. Shelley’s Gangster (9-9, PBR UTB)
Tanner Byrne vs. Seven Dust (39-3, PBR UTB)
Stetson Lawrence vs. Talking Smack (11-1, PBR UTB)*
Valdiron de Oliveira vs. Frequent Flyer (14-0, PBR UTB)
Derek Kolbaba vs. Heartbreak Kid (16-0, PBR UTB)
Ryan Dirteater vs. Bad Beagle (19-3, PBR UTB)
Brennon Eldred vs. Pearl Harbor (40-4, PBR UTB)
Cooper Davis vs. Hedoo (8-4, PBR UTB)
Kaique Pacheco vs. Jack Shot (30-4, PBR UTB)$
Jess Lockwood vs. Milky Jones (20-5, PBR UTB)*
Claudio Montanha Jr. vs. SweetPro’s Bruiser (43-11, PBR UTB)
Eduardo Aparecido vs. Lester Gillis (29-3, PBR UTB)$
Luciano de Castro vs. TLW’s Big Cat (28-3, PBR UTB)
Cody Nance vs. Cochise (39-7, PBR UTB)*
Ramon de Lima vs. Desperado (2-0, PBR UTB)
$Rider has successfully ridden the bull in a previous matchup

Kolbaba will be riding with a custom knee brace this weekend at Rimrock Auto Arena.

The fourth-year pro has spent the last two weeks getting used to the brace by wearing it while out riding horses.

“I got on a few horses bareback and just trotted around to kind of get that feel,” Kolbaba said. “That is about as close as you can get to actually getting on a bull. I will get on a practice bull this week and be ready to go after it.”

Kolbaba says there is a great advantage to riding on horseback when trying to rehab a lower body injury.

“Getting on a horse bareback is something I have always liked to do, especially after groin injuries or things where you need you will need your knees and feet to squeeze,” Kolbaba said. “That is half of what you are doing on there is squeezing and always trying to get another hold. You are using the same muscles you would use in riding bulls, so it is a kind of controlled environment you could say.”

Kolbaba was surprised, and happy, to not have lost too much ground in the World Championship race.

He only dropped from seventh in the world standings to 13th and fell only an additional 435 points in the title race. Kolbaba could easily make up that deficit with an event win in Billings this weekend.

Kolbaba trails world leader Ramon de Lima by 1,300 points overall.

“I was happy for damn sure, but I was a little surprised too,” Kolbaba said. “I had been out for six weeks and we have three more events left, and one is a Major. Anything can happen.”

Not that he needed any more reassurance that he is still very much alive in the title race, but Kolbaba has not forgotten that J.B. Mauney won the 2015 World Championship despite missing a month and a half because of a torn ACL.

“You don’t need an ACL to ride a bull,” Kolbaba said. “If this was baseball or basketball this would be something different, but it is not. That is what makes it that much more exciting. Sometimes to be a champion you have to take a risk and this is a risk I am willing to take.

“There is a chance it may not work out. If I get on, and it feels bad, and I can’t ride, then I will go get it fixed. But right now it is feeling good and I am feeling like I can compete.”


An MRI on Monday afternoon confirmed that world No. 4 Jose Vitor Leme tore his left ACL during this past weekend’s Tacoma Invitational.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Leme will not undergo surgery and he will be out of competition for 3-6 weeks.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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