What is Freestyle Bullfighting? A Guide To The Extreme Sport

by Gabriella Jaffee

One man. One bull. One nerve-wracking competition. 

The extreme sport of freestyle bullfighting has made a huge comeback after nearly dying out over the past few years. The creation of the Bullfighters Only (BFO) and later, Shorty Gorham’s American Freestyle Bullfighting (AFB), opened the door for a whole new generation of athletes and contractors to claim this unique spot within the rodeo industry.

Watch the 2019 Mini Bull Riders and American Freestyle Bullfighting, LIVE on FloRodeo, Feb. 8-10. 

So what is freestyle bullfighting? In one word: Badass. 

Combine acrobatics, insane wrecks and a man trying to best a 1,200-plus pound Spanish or Mexican fighting bull that’s out for blood, and you’ve begun to scratch the surface of what is freestyle bullfighting.

Here’s What You Need To Know

Fight Time: Depending on which association you’re fighting in, you’ll have a different amount of minimum time required to fight the bull with additional time to “sell” the performance. You aren’t required to utilize the additional time, but you do need to make the required minimum (which is 40 seconds in the BFO, 30 seconds in the AFB with an additional 20 seconds and 15 seconds to make the sell, respectively), otherwise, you’ll be marked as a no score.

Scoring: Just like in the bull riding, there are 50 possible points to be awarded to the bull and 50 possible points awarded to the bullfighter for a total score of 100 points. A great fight is 88 to 90 points.

Bull Points

Points for the bulls are awarded according to the following factors:

  • Aggression
  • Speed/agility
  • Willingness to stay engaged (hooked up)
  • Difficulty of being fought

Points for the bulls are subtracted if:

  • The bull runs around the arena for more time than he is engaged with the bullfighter.
  • The bull refuses to engage with the bullfighter.
  • The bull is slow.

Bullfighter Points

Bullfighters are awarded points when:

  • They exhibit control over the direction of the bull with fakes, by making rounds and displaying other aggressive maneuvers.
  • They perform creative tricks ranging from jumping to flips.

Bullfighters get points subtracted when:

  • They are hooked (points are deducted for every subsequent hooking).
  • They jump up on the fence.
  • They run from the bull instead of controlling his movement.

So now that you know the basics, let’s get in-depth and talk about the finer details of each bullfight so you can be an expert fan this weekend.

Bullfighting Terms 101

Fake: A maneuver that tricks a bull into thinking the fighter is going one way when he really isn’t.

Knee Fake: A fake done on your knees by slapping the dirt to the right or left of you and hoping the bull takes the fake.

Back Fake: A fake performed with your back to the bull.

Back Reverse Fake: A fake done where you spin and go the other direction from where you had the bull going initially.

Reverse Knee Fake: Performing a knee fake with your back to the bull.

Selfie Fake: Perfected by Ross Hill, the selfie fake utilizes a phone to watch where the bull is coming out and then faking him out.

Hot: A bull that’s extra mean, extra hooky and will earn extra points if you can make rounds with him. Exhibit A: Pablo Escobar

Hooking: When a bull gets a fighter down to the dirt and proceeds to stomp on, trample and hook him.

Cape: A move where a fake is thrown and as the bull runs past, the bullfighter will throw out his arm as an homage to the bullfighters of Spain and Portugal. Extra points if you run your hand down the bull’s back. Fun Fact: Cody Webster is the undisputed King of Caping.

Flips: Front flips and backflips get big points.

Flat Foot Jump: When a bullfighter jumps over a bull from a dead stop. A variation of this would be the Tomahawk Flat Foot Jump, a move Canadian Kristopher Buffalo is well known for.

Sign up to watch the 2019 Mini Bull Riders and American Freestyle Bullfighting, LIVE on FloRodeo Feb. 8-10 by clicking HERE.

Breakaway Roping: Will Young Girls Be Trading Polly Pockets For Poly Ropes?

Lari Dee Guy showed us that it was a good thing to “rope like a girl,” Willow Raley became the first woman to win money in the team roping in the PRCA (at Cheyenne Frontier Days, no less) and Jackie Crawford has been dominating the breakaway roping game for years. With those talented women paving the way for female ropers, there truly has never been a more significant time in the history of ladies spinning ropes since the old days of lady fancy trick ropers.

5, 90, $200,000: The Numbers Of The PBR Iron Cowboy

When it comes to numbers, the PBR Unleash The Beast’s Iron Cowboy competition knows how to stack ‘em up. Big payout, big points and more big-bad bulls to beat to get that payout and points at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. 

VOTE: Which Invitee Can't Be Beat At 2019 The American?

Who's Gonna Take The Crown?

RFD-TV’s The American is a challenge between the best professional rodeo athletes in the world and whichever underdogs are able to battle their way through the semifinals to face them. But even if they can beat the other qualifiers, can anyone beat this lineup of titans waiting in the finals?

Watch Guide: PBR Iron Cowboy, Worcester, & Shepparton

Watch Over 150 Events On FloRodeo

Up to five rounds of grueling PBR action are coming your way this weekend with the PBR Unleash the Beast’s Iron Cowboy competition.

THROWBACK: Watch Full Replays Of The American In 2018

Who's Gonna Take The Crown?

Since the announcement that the 2019 edition of RFD-TV's The American would have an even larger payout, new format, new events and be sanctioned by the PRCA, we've been counting down the days for the event to kick off. 

Watch Guide: The American & Junior American 2019

Who's Gonna Take The Crown?

If you loved watching RFD-TV’s The American in 2018 as much as we did, you’ll be even more excited about the lineup of events we have coming at you in 2019, including the first-ever Junior American Finals.

Top 35 PBR Spots In Jeopardy After The Weekend

The bubble is about to pop for Unleash The Beast competitors.

Riding In His Name: Mason Lowe Memorial

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, PBR Bull Rider Mason Lowe passed away due to injuries sustained while competing. Exactly one month later, his fellow competitors will enter the Enterprise Center in St. Louis Missouri—Lowe's home state—to honor the fallen cowboy who was a friend to many.

Coming Soon To FloRodeo: Live Events Like Never Before

Prepare for a new immersive live experience that will transform the way you watch rodeo. You shared your live stream dreams with us, and we're making them all come true with fan-driven features you've been craving.

Watch Guide: Mason Lowe Memorial & Jacksonville

Two events are coming your way this weekend on FloRodeo, including a very special PBR Unleash The Beast event to honor fallen cowboy Mason Lowe.