JWF Bullfighters

No one has spent more time in the Wrangler Rodeo Arena the past four days than Jose Cano, Ethan Cook and Connor Quezada. And that has to be a sense of relief for the bull riders at the Junior World Finals.

From Left to Right: Ethan Cook, Connor Queszada and Jose Cano stand for a photo inside the Wrangler Rodeo Arena on Sunday. | Photo By: Jack Nowlin

Cano, Cook and Quezada got the nod as the bullfighters for this year’s JWF. Cano is here for the second year in a row, while Cook and Quezada are making their first appearances. It’s definitely not their first time working together, though.

“This time I was lucky enough to get my buddies involved,” Cano said. “These guys are my best friends. We usually don’t get to fight together at a hired event, so to do it here in Vegas at the world finals means a lot.

“We work really well together as a team.”

The three, who have been working together for “five, six years,” believe that familiarity plays a big role in keeping the bull riders safe.

“No one is in each other’s way and everybody is where they’re supposed to be,” Cook said. “We all read each other really well.

“When you work with new guys you have to adjust and kind of figure out how they fight. We already know how each other works, so we can rely on our instincts and just flow.”

That was evident Sunday, when Gray Court, South Carolina, bull rider Colton Hughes, competing in the 12-13 division, got hung up at the end of his ride. Hughes covered the bull through the first two jumps out of the chute, but lost control when the bull started spinning away from his hand and was hanging off the bull as it continued to spin. Cook, who was near the chutes, raced over to free Hughes’ hand as Cano distracted the bull.

Hughes received a no-score, but the bullfighters made sure the bull rider walked out of the arena.

Bullfighters race in to help a bull rider after he was bucked off Sunday. | Photo By: Jack Nowlin

“We’ve worked so much together that we can always be in the right spot,” Quezada noted. “No one is trying to be the hero. It just so happened that Ethan had a lot of saves today on hang-ups.”

“Right spot, right time,” Cook said with a shrug.

Cook, Quezada and Cano are all former bull riders who are more than content with their current status in the rodeo world.

“The adrenaline lasts a little longer,” Cano admitted. “When you ride you’re out there once or twice, but when you’re fighting you’re out there the whole time. Instead of getting one or two bulls during a performance, you get them all.”

Cook agreed with Cano’s assessment but admitted there’s more to it than the adrenaline rush.

“This is more fulfilling,” he said. “If you go out there and ride a bull you get a pat on the back. Here, we have a totally different purpose. I’m here to keep these kids safe and help keep their dreams alive. To me, that is more fulfilling than riding a bull or winning a couple of thousand dollars. That’s a good feeling, but this is a way better feeling.”

Besides, bullfighting helps pay the bills.

“I make more money fighting bulls than I did riding bulls, that’s for sure,” Quezada laughed.

The three never intended on being bullfighters but ended up doing so out of necessity.

“We started fighting bulls because we got on some in practice pens and we didn’t have bullfighters,” Cook stated. “When Connor was riding I would step out there and try to bullfight. And then when I was riding he was doing the same thing for me. We did that for a year or two.

“We were getting on really mean bulls and we decided that we needed to learn how to fight bulls if we were going to be bullfighters. And we ended up being pretty good at it.”

The bull riders at this year’s Junior World Finals would agree. And Cano, Cook and Quezada realize the importance of what they do every day they step into the arena.

“These kids are the future of the sport,” Quezada said. “So the biggest thing is to keep these kids safe and healthy and not letting them get scared of the sport. We want them to know that there are guys out here to keep them safe so they can do their job on the back of the bull. We don’t want them to worry about anything other than that.”

A bull rider hangs on as the bullfighters move in to free him on Sunday. | Photo By: Jack Nowlin

Jose Cano

This time I was lucky enough to get my buddies involved; these guys are my best friends. We usually don’t get to fight together at a hired event, so to do it here in Vegas at the world finals means a lot. Nigel Harvey’s wife had a baby this year so he recommended these guys.

We work really well together as a team … five-six years.

The adrenaline lasts a little longer. When you ride you’re out there once or twice, but when you’re fighting you’re out there the whole time. Instead of getting one or two bulls during a performance you get them all.

Ethan Cook

No one is in each other’s way and everybody is where they’re supposed to be. We all read each other really well. When you work with new guys you have to adjust and kind of figure out how they fight. We already know how each other works, so we can rely on our instincts and just flow.

Right spot, right time.

We all have the same goal and that’s to keep the bull rider safe. After that, it’s to keep our buddies safe.

What makes this harder is these kids try harder; they don’t look off or jump off. A lot of adults, when they get in a tough position on a bull’s back, they’ll swing their leg and jump off. These kids don’t quit. They tie themselves in like big kids do and they don’t give up. They want this more than anything. That’s where we might have to do a little more work. It still comes down to the fact that it’s still bullfighting.

It’s straight adrenaline for two hours.

I rode bulls for 12 to 14 years. We started fighting bulls because we got on in practice pens and we didn’t have bullfighters. When Connor was riding I would step out there and try to bullfight. And then when I was riding he was doing the same thing for me. We did that for a year or two … We were getting on really mean bulls and we decided that we needed to learn how to fight bulls if we were going to be bullfighters. And we ended up being pretty good at it.

This is more fulfilling. If you go out there and ride a bull you get a pat on the back. Here, we have a totally different purpose. I’m here to keep these kids safe and help keep their dreams alive. To me, that is more fulfilling than riding a bull or winning a couple thousand dollars. That’s a good feeling, but this is a way better feeling.

Connor Quezada

We’ve worked so much together that we can always be in the right spot. No one is trying to be the hero. It just so happened that Ethan had a lot of saves today on hang-ups.

These kids are the future of the sport so the biggest thing is to keep these kids safe and healthy and not letting them get scared of the sport. We want them to know that there are guys out here to keep them safe so they can do their job on the back of the bull. We don’t want them to worry about anything other than that.

I make more money fighting bulls than I did riding bulls, that’s for sure.

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