NEWARK, N.J. – 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco may have recorded the lowest qualified ride score among the Top 5 riders in the world on Saturday night at the PBR ZipRecruiter Invitational, but his focus in adverse conditions inside the Prudential Center is a reminder of why his mental fortitude may be his biggest strength as he attempts to run down Jose Vitor Leme in the world title race.
Pacheco reached the 8-second mark against Smoke On The Water for 83.5 points after the bovine athlete gave him fits inside the bucking chute. The No. 2-ranked bull rider in the world remained poised and composed as Smoke On The Water failed to cooperate with him and tried to assert his dominance. Once the chute gate opened, it was all Pacheco.
The 27-year-old finished Round 1 in 16th place, losing another 8.5 points in the world title race to Leme, who finished tied for third place in the round with an 88.5-point ride on A-Team to extend his lead to 738 points. But Pacheco is one of the strongest riders in the locker room when it comes to blocking out what his opponents may do.
Pacheco has the utmost respect for Leme, Round 1 winner and 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis, and world No. 5 Joao Ricardo Vieira. Still, in his mind, the only opponent in the 2021 world title race is himself.
“I need to be better than myself, not better than you and better than the others,” Pacheco said before Round 1. “It’s all the same. I just push myself to be better than me. Not because I’m a World Champion means that I should think I’m better than other guys. I want to be better for me. All the guys have the dream to be a World Champion, and I’m very happy to make my dream come true, and I would be happy for those guys to work hard and make their dreams come true. But I always try to be better than me, and make my job all the time.”
Pacheco is never distracted during an event.
On Saturday night, Pacheco sat on the back of the bucking chutes in precise meditation with still 35 minutes before it was his turn to ride. He did not pay much attention at all to Vieira, the No. 5-ranked bull rider in the world, riding La Grande for 88.5 points and eventually tying with Leme for third place.
Instead, Pacheco makes sure that he focuses every bit of his mental strength on himself. He can’t control what Leme, Davis, Vieira, or anyone else does.
“I try not to think about (others),” Pacheco said. “If a guy rides his bulls, he makes better scores, then he wins, and that’s the game. The only thing I can focus and try to control is my performance.”
His only task and focus has to be making 8 seconds.
It is the only strategy – ride your bull – that he can control.
Pacheco has no high or low if another rider converts for 8 seconds or is bucked off a bull.
“I just need to try to forget everything and make sure I do the same as the last time (I won the world),” Pacheco said. “Forget everything, and focus on me, my bulls, and try to ride all my bulls. If you ride your bulls, good things are going to happen. I need to just make my job, and that’s more important for me.
“I want to make my job.”
The perfect work performance in Newark will be a 3-for-3 showing for Pacheco, which is something he hasn’t done since a 3-for-3, fourth-place finish almost four months ago in Jacksonville, Florida.
That path starts against Pneu-Dart’s Big Time (4-0, UTB) in Round 2 (8 p.m. ET CBS Sports Network) on Sunday. Big Time is 16-0 at all levels of competition.
“If I try to focus too much on other guys, I will forget myself and what I have to do,” Pacheco concluded. “You just clear your mind, and that’s it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media