Jason Gibbs in action.

Jason Gibbs is not a bull rider. He is a bullfighter. Someone who places his life on the line as a bodyguard… who protects bull riders when all goes right or wrong in a power packed eight seconds that riders and fighters alike maintain lasts a lifetime.  For Joey Hackett, a 19 year veteran of the sport, the fear never goes away. As a professional bullfighter he has developed the mental tools and training necessary to go up against a bull and when need be save the lives of professional bull riders just moments away from being trampled to death.

” It’s all reactive. If you’re a batter and a guy is pitching to you, you don’t think about the ball, you react to it. That is kind of what we do. If we think about it, then it puts you a second behind. Then that guy is in trouble.” Mr. Gibbs continued, “we take what we do seriously. We place our lives on the line.”

The job of a bullfighter is not to attack the bull. Their job is primarily to get the bull’s attention, to get the bull away from the bull rider and lead the bulls to safety.

I questioned the bull fighters regarding how they cope mentally with the pressure of saving the lives of others while trying to protect their own. They had a simple answer.” Prayer.” Both explained that they pray before the match, after the match, and during the match.

And while prayer is critical, so is preparation. They maintain a strong exercise program- which includes a lot of stretching. During  down time, they watch videos of different bulls to get a better understanding of how specific bulls react. They also study the bull riders. They observe their movements and body positions so when they see something change, the bull fighters can react within a fraction of a second.

One of the greatest stereotypes is that the bulls get treated inhumanely.  This is absolutely 100% false. Both riders stressed to me how well the bulls are treated.  They are well fed, checked on regularly by veterinarians,  and given a strict exercise program. Bull riders and bull fighters place their literal lives in the hands of these awesome 2,000 pound beasts. The last thing anyone of them would want is to make  a bull mad.  Also, bulls cost their owners as much as six figures ($100,000.00+). Bull owners generally keep their high profile bulls in the best care possible.

These gentlemen are professionals both inside and outside the ring. During my interview with both gentlemen, I was amazed at the humbleness and kindness of both. Throughout the interview they both politely referred to me as “sir”. They also discussed the importance of their position as brand ambassadors. how they try to put on the best show at every event, and make a strong connection with the fans outside the ring- whether that be at after parties or autograph signings. They spoke of how they look forward to entertaining the crowd this Saturday night. To be honest, after listening to these two fine gentlemen…I can tell you that Knoxville has a lot to look forward to this weekend.

See information below…

THIS SATURDAY, February 23, after a two-year absence, the Professional Bull
Riders are returning to the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville with thirty
of the world’s best bull riders on some of the toughest bulls in the nation.
Ticket prices start at just $12. “The best riders in the world compete in
the PBR and we are pleased to host such an elite group of riders at the
Thompson-Boling Arena,” said Tim Reese of the Thompson-Boling Arena.  The
PBR begins at 7:30pm and ticket prices start at just $12.  Group rates are
also available.  Get tickets at the Thompson-Boling Arena Box Office,
knoxvilletickets.com and charge by phone at 865-656-4444 (local) or
877-995-9961 (toll-free).

Dan Andrews reporting…