SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney wasn’t victorious this weekend, but his 89-point ride on Brutus in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round was a wake-up call to his opponents that the champ is no longer a sleeping giant.
Mauney’s hips were firing at full cylinder on Sunday afternoon as Brutus took slow, methodical and large, leaping jumps across the Golden 1 Center dirt in Sacramento.
The 30-year-old bull rider was able to handle Brutus with relative ease before jumping off the bull at the 8-second mark, landing on his feet and running to the back of the bucking chutes in celebratory jubilation.
“That is what it is all about,” Mauney said. “I have been home for a couple of weeks. This is the best I have felt in a long time.”
Mauney missed the last two events because of a right hip injury he sustained during Round 1 of the season-opener in New York.
Since then, questions circled as Mauney underwent multiple X-rays, CT scans and MRIs on his chronically injured hip.
Had Father Time caught up to Mauney?
Would the 30-year-old have to get season-ending surgery?
Could the future PBR Ring of Honor inductee contend for a record-tying third world title despite muscle tears in his hips?
Well, Mauney, who received a steroid injection in his hip the week before his return, made a big case in Sacramento that those questions aren’t nearly as important as some would think.
The 12-year veteran with 482 career qualified rides under his belt, including 71 90-point rides, has every intention of going after another gold buckle in 2017.
“This is the best I have probably felt in six-seven years,” Mauney said.
After riding Brutus, Mauney made sure to jump on the back of the chute and hug stock contractor Dillon Page of D&H Cattle Company.
J.W. Hart was impressed by Mauney's return.
“It was just a matter of getting that shot it seems,” Hart said. “He rode every bull he got on except Asteroid, and he started him good and got caught in a jump there. I hadn’t seen him limp. That is important.
“If J.B. is not limping, regardless of if he is No. 1 in the standings or No. 5, he almost has to be the favorite.”
Hart brought up arguably the biggest takeaway from Mauney’s 4-for-5 weekend in Sacramento, which included him finishing in third place and earning 315 points toward the world standings.
The No. 13 bull rider in the world stood up without a limp inside the arena following each of his qualified rides and didn’t limp after Asteroid rolled him up during his 6.57-second buckoff.
Mauney began his weekend with 83.75 points aboard Make You Famous. He then showed up on Saturday night with an 87-point ride on All Aboard before riding Damn Yankee for 80 points in Round 3 Sunday afternoon.
However, none of those three rides really showed if Mauney was truly back compared to his 89-point sensation on Brutus.
“That bull kind of left a little different,” Mauney said. “I was a little out of time with him. He was snapping on me pretty good and nearly whooped me down. I set my feet and wouldn’t quit. I knew if I mentally got to where I needed to be it would be a lot better.”
Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Justin McBride shook his head and grinned following the event when asked about Mauney’s weekend.
“That ride in the championship round wasn’t enough points or whatever, but that was rank,” McBride said. “That was a strong bull. Not many guys could have rode that bull today, especially when he got in a little bit of trouble halfway into it. That was huge. That was J.B. Mauney type of stuff. He is one of the few guys that can do that.”
Mauney wound up .25 points behind event winner Jess Lockwood in the event average.
A little bit higher of a ride score on any of his qualified rides and he would have won the event average, as well as the event, and been that much closer to Lockwood in the world standings.
The 19-year-old leads Mauney by 1,282.5 points.
Hart said Mauney is confidently going to be in this world title race as long as he shows up.
“That man right there will have a lot to say about it,” Hart said, pointing at Mauney.
It will be important to watch if Mauney’s remains a non-factor throughout the rest of the season.
Mauney said before Sacramento he would possibly get surgery during the BFTS summer break, but he also has expressed some hesitation about getting his hip worked on.
“You can’t worry about what happened in the past and all you can do is look forward to the future,” Mauney said. “Right now, I feel like I can keep going for a while.”
McBride isn’t completely sold that Mauney’s hip will not be an issue this season.
However, that doesn’t mean he can’t win a third world title.
“Well, I am not saying he can’t make a run at the title because I never bet against him because he can ride like that, but I do believe the hip will continue to be an issue,” McBride said. “It has always been an issue with this guy for a long time.
“He is just going to have to be smart the way he manages his season. When he shows up and is even halfway healthy, he is capable of winning.”
Like always, a relatively healthy J.B. Mauney is a dangerous J.B. Mauney.
“Bring it on,” Mauney concluded. “It is a long season. If I do my job and my best, it will all work itself out.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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