By Keith Ryan Cartwright
As the calendar turns from July to August, seven of Shorty Gorham’s American Freestyle Bullfighting’s nine remaining regular-season events will take place over the next four weeks.
“I like these standalone events,” said Bo Davis, who partnered with Gorham to produce the events. “More and more it’s growing into standalone events.”
Davis is a longtime producer of touring pro events for the PBR.
Over the past couple years, he’s regularly combined AFB with his PBR events.
Davis, who makes his home in Gonzales, Texas, said that as the AFB nears the end of its second year, it is becoming easier to produce standalone events and when committees inquire about adding a night of AFB by itself, he’s quick to reply, “I can do that for you.”
Both events will feature a 15-man lineup.
Alex McWilliams, Tristan Seargeant, Dylan Idleman, Sage Seay, Knox Dunn, Chance Pruitt and Ryker Fenstermaker along with Richard Wayne Ratley, Jeffrey Wheelock, Brandon Moore, Andrew Garey, Ryder Rich, Trent King, Tanner Scott and Bailey Ziehl will be in Mitchell; Riley McKettrick, Ty Correira, Tyler Norton, Jaden Olearnik, Jake England, Ben Walton, Dekevis Jordan and Josh McNeeley will join McWilliams, Idleman, Seay, Scott and Wheelock in Perryton two nights later.
There will also be a three-man event taking place August 1 in Santa Barbara, California.
Andres Gonzalez, Cody Escobedo and Tyler Longbeck will be at the west coast event.
As the AFB brand continues to grow, Davis said, “The AFB is here to stay. Made it through the growing pains and we’re still going to have some pains next year, but it’s happening for Shorty and it helps having Shorty’s name and having Shorty on TV every weekend.”
Gorham has provided cowboy protection at the elite televised level of PBR competition and over the past seven seasons, he has provided on-the-dirt commentary for CBS and CBS Sports Network as part of the broadcast team.
His weekly appearances on television make Gorham one of the most recognizable bullfighters in the world.
“Shorty’s a very determined type of person,” Davis said. “He got his teeth in and just was never going to let go of it. He made it through the rough parts and stayed hooked. It’s his determination and he surrounds himself with real good people.”
Davis later added, “This deal is really turning into something.”
In November, the AFB will close out its second full season with a five-day World Finals held at the South Point Hotel and Casino in conjunction with the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.
“That’s a big step in your second year to have five performances in Vegas,” said Davis, who has been producing a combination of rodeos, bull ridings and bullfighting events for more than 25 years.
In fact, nowadays he said a lot of the freestyle bullfighters have grown up watching western sports on television and streaming live on the Internet, and they see Gorham and the AFB as providing them with another opportunity to compete in Las Vegas.
They associate Vegas with gold buckles and world titles.
“Isn’t that crazy,” Davis said. “All we wanted to do was start it and now they’re born into it.”
The exposure – several AFB events, including upcoming events in Nashville, Tennessee; Anaheim, California, and Nampa, Idaho, will televised during the PBR broadcast on CBS Sports Network – has drawn the interest of more athletes who do not come from a western upbringing.
“It’s because you can be a really good athlete,” Davis explained, “and never have ridden a bull or ridden a horse or roped a cow as long as you are really athletic.
“It just doesn’t take a western lifestyle type of raising to be able to do. It helps to know cattle, but if you’re young and able to get around out there, you have just as much of a chance of winning just as much as anybody.”
There will be 25 freestyle bullfighters competing at a trio of AFB events in the first three days of August and Davis concluded, “The AFB is here to stay.”