Legendary bullfighter Shorty Gorham, best known for his cowboy protection at PBR events, is reviving the forgotten sport of American style bullfighting and creating a new generation of stars with the formation of Shorty Gorham’s American Freestyle Bullfighting.
Gorham has been fighting bulls for a quarter of a century and as his own career in the arena nears its end, the formation of AFB is a natural progression for the California native, who makes his home in Cotulla, Texas. Building on his own name recognition, Gorham looks to capitalize on his decade of fighting bulls at the elite televised level of PBR competition, where he also serves as a television commentator for CBS and CBS Sports Network.
As much as American freestyle bullfighting is a premiere western sport, AFB is an extreme sport pitting one freestyle bullfighter against a Spanish fighting bull in a matchup best described as the most dangerous dance on dirt. AFB is the ultimate salsa dance with one man and one animal alone in an arena in a matchup of skill, finesse and athleticism versus power, size and ferocity.
“This ain’t no bull ride,” said Gorham. “It’s the bullfighter’s turn to shine.”
Freestyle bullfighting is 40 seconds of nonstop electrifying intensity with the spotlight tightly focused on the bullfighter and bull performing in the center of the arena.
Unlike cowboy protection, in which bullfighters work to keep bull riders and other cowboys safe and out of harms-way, freestyle bullfighting calls for the bullfighter to engage 1,000-pound fighting bulls that are born meaner, faster and agile than their much larger counterparts.
Freestyle bullfighters can be saved only by their own physical abilities and experienced decision-making.
Like bull riding, individual scores for both cowboys and bulls represent half of their total score.
Judges score bulls based on how hot they are – in other words, their willingness to engage its opponent for the entire 40 seconds – while freestyle bullfighters are assessed points for their own willingness to face off one on one with Spanish and Mexican fighting bulls without seeking a reprieve by scaling the arena walls. They also earn points by performing crowd-rousing tricks like a head on Super Man jump over the length of a bull running straight at them at full speed.
Gorham is looking to use his own brand to create a new generation of western sports superstars.
Over the past two decades, the name SHORTY GORHAM has become synonymous with bullfighting. The California native, who now makes his home in Cottula, Texas, is the first bullfighter in PBR history to simultaneously serve as a member of the CBS / CBS Sports Network broadcast team and, since 2011, has been present in living rooms nationwide every weekend. Gorham’s unique role from down on the dirt provides a perspective and firsthand point-of-view that no other on-air commentators have brought to the PBR’s telecast.
Gorham’s career began when he was 14 years old. He left home and moved to Rancho Mission Viejo, where he studied the psychology of cattle by working on a 40,000-acre ranch, while attending San Clemente High School. “I was born 100 years too late,” said Gorham, 38, who showed little interest in surfing with classmates and dreamed of being a cowboy since he was five. It is one of the last remaining cattle ranches in Orange County and it was there Gorham learned how to react to the body language – eyes and ears – and the understand the movement of a bull.
He won two state high school roping titles and, at 18, Gorham began fighting bulls at local rodeos. He was selected to work the California state high school finals followed by three years with the California Circuit Finals Rodeo. Then he twice earned a trip to Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo before earning a spot, in 2006, as an alternate with the PBR. A year later, Gorham became a fixture on the elite televised series.
This year — 2017 — will mark his 12th consecutive appearance at the PBR World Finals.
In addition to his broadcasting career, Gorham appeared on the NBC series “America’s Toughest Job” and the Versus series “Sports Jobs with Junior Seau.” He hosted “Best of the West” for two seasons on The Outdoor Channel and, in 2016, initiated a movement in which fellow bullfighters and bull riders from every country have agreed to Celebrate America by pledging to always respectfully stand for the national anthem at PBR events.
“I’ve been fortunate all my life to have a job I love coming to,” said Gorham, who is best-known for protecting cowboys and keeping bull riders out of trouble. “If it ended tomorrow I could look back and be completely happy with what I’ve done.” Earlier this year, the married, father of two turned his attention to the future by looking to the past when founded Shorty Gorham’s American Freestyle Bullfighting and is now also producing the top freestyle bullfighting events in the world.