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Image from the 2018 PBR event in Greensboro, North Carolina


Dec 112018

Derek Kolbaba knew he was not going to be able to win a world title in 2018, but he wanted to prove he could compete in Las Vegas at the World Finals event.

He did not have to wait long.

The Monster Energy bull rider was the first bull rider out.

The left-hander challenged a no-score he received, but after further review he was called for a touch at 7.95 seconds. It was not the first impression he wanted to make a year after arriving in Las Vegas the No. 1 rider in the world standings only to finish No. 2.

This year was about proving he can consistently make the whistle on the top-ranked bucking bulls in the world. Five days later, he had gone 3-for-6 with a trio 91-point rides, including a pair on the final day of the season. 

“It means everything,” Kolbaba said. “This is the best bull riding you can ask for. The fans are outstanding.”

He then added, “This one’s for my granddad.”

The elder Kolbaba had been sick for much of the 2018 season, but he was at home in Washington watching his grandson on television.

Kolbaba finished third in the average and 11th in the world standings and, more importantly, recaptured his confidence.


He finished off the season with 91-points on Chochise.


“Worth every point,” said two-time PBR World Champion Justin McBride, “It could have been 92 and it wouldn’t have been too high.”


McBride added, “That was a great job by Kolbaba.”


An hour earlier, he earned a spot in the Championship Round with a 91.75-point effort on Smooth Wreck. Despite having a tough go of things that last time he matched up with Smooth Wreck, he chose he that bull Saturday night in the bull draft.


“I’ve been on that bull a handful of times and he’s gotten the best of me for the most part,” recalled Kolbaba. “I knew coming into the day I needed to pick something that was going to buck and get us some points."


“I laid it all on the line.”


Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray agreed.


Murray added, “Kolbaba just laid it all out there.”


Kolbaba also laid it all out there two days earlier, on Friday night, when he rode Biker Bob for 91 points.


Biker Bob is fast spinner and riders have all said it’s easy to fall behind.


And Kolbaba had done just that in 2017.


“That bull got me down from a dream come true last year,” said Kolbaba, who lost out on winning a world title in 2017 when he “fell behind” his best friend Jess Lockwood, who became the youngest rider in PBR history to claim a world title.


“I figured we’d take it to him today.”


When asked to compare the two outs, Kolbaba joked, “It’s a hell of a lot more fun” making the 8-second whistle.


In 2019, Kolbaba has everything it takes to win a gold buckle.


Like he did just in Vegas, he just needs to stay down and finish.


He and the rest of the Monster Energy team – Jose Vitor Leme, Chase Outlaw and J.B. Mauney – will join the Top 35 riders in New York for the Buck Off at Madison Square Garden on January 4–6.