Bullfighters



Matt Baldwin
Retired CBR Bullfighter

Going in Style CBR Bullfighter of the Year Retires

   Matt Baldwin Voted 2017 CBR Bullfighter of the Year

At 41 years of age the original cowboy protection man of the CBR was introduced into the arena for the last time. Twenty-six hours later he ended his CBR career working the two night, 88 out performance with what he considered to be…a perfect night.

With no injuries to a rider, bullfighter, or animal and in typical Matt Baldwin style - without any hoopla, fireworks, or swan songs -  he was done.

“It is at its best when I get to undo something before it happens,” said the now retired CBR Bullfighter of the Year describing his profession of twenty-five years."

“I never thought of myself as a cowboy lifesaver, that’s the paramedics and sports medicine teams job, my job is to distract the bull and do everything I can to get the animal’s attention off the bull rider,” said Matt Baldwin.

“Retiring was something I have struggled with all year. I knew it was time,” said the 41 year old athlete who fought bulls at the inaugural CBR event in Jackson, Mississippi in 2002 and on July 29 in front of over 10,000 people fought his final CBR bull.

“Brushes with death” are something he enjoyed and looked forward to, but it is Matt’s love for bulls that will always be remembered. He has a lot of respect for the animals he shared the arena with and often talks about them as if they were fellow co-workers.

But on this day the co-worker describing Matt was his friend and CBR Production Manager Chris Rankin.

“Matt Baldwin will in my mind walk away as one of the best bull fighters there ever has been, Matt never panicked in any situation, he always stayed calm, Matt was one of the smoothest guys in the arena from having to get around a bad one, or having to slide in to get a guy unhung, and Baldwin is tough, hardly wore any pads in his whole career.  If you are a bull rider you like seeing a guy like Matt Baldwin in the arena.

“Fast decisions are important, and Baldwin seems to always make the right decision at the right time, said Jeff Medders, CBR television broadcaster who sees the performance in slow motion in the studio while producing the Fox Sports broadcast.

Selecting the biggest stage of his career, the CBR World Finals at Cheyenne Frontier Days, Matt Baldwin worked the dirt in front of the historic grandstands known as the Daddy of ‘Em All, just like every other perf over the last seventeen years… one bull and one step at a time.

“The arena is a blank canvass, you can’t overthink, you have to watch what you see and react and you have to be able to control your emotions, don’t do anything to irritate the situation – but most importantly you need to keep a clear head,” said the recently relocated Georgia bullfighter who has been fighting bucking bulls for twenty-five years.

“My career was really one big accident,” began Baldwin.

“I started when I was fifteen years old. I was riding bulls in Douglas, Georgia at Milton Carter’s house, and going to other practice pens to get on, but no one really know what they were doing and I had was the one that had no problem getting out there and it was exciting and fun to me to get in front of the bulls. I got paid to do it for the first time when I was 16,” continued the sponsored representative of Georgia Peanuts.

“I was at the practice pen in Live Oak, Florida at Oscar White’s and got hired by a college – I never set any goals to be a bullfighter – it just happened at the practice pens.”

The story of Matt Baldwin and the CBR goes back to its beginning when Joel Logan spotted him fighting bulls for stock contractor and producer Tony Sharp at Starkville, Mississippi. Recognizing Baldwin’s talent, Logan subsequently hired him for the new tour development that evolved as Championship Bull Riding.

Seventeen years later, fearless is still being used as the term to describe Matt Baldwin. Matt is one of the only bull fighters in the world that wears absolutely no protective gear or padding. Not something that is recommended, but while we are on the subject, Matt does not like to talk about injuries, but he is known to have stepped into the arena to work with broken ankles, toes, fingers and ribs.

Matt Baldwin has one of the most interesting perspectives on life and the danger he faces day to day. He makes it a point to pray before he gets in the arena but not for himself, for others.

 “That’s like saying you’re gonna jump off a house and then pray for protection. I can’t be a hypocrite,” he says with a laugh.

The other side of Matt’s life is his wife who conveniently is a paramedic, which comes in handy considering his two professions lead to accidents.

Citing his hobby as teaching his boys everyday skills, Kristy and Matt have two sons, Eli, nicknamed Bubba and Krease, now 9 and 6 years old. Matt plans on spending even more time with them now, sharing the things his late grandfathers taught him.

It is important to Matt to teach his children how to be good people who work hard and take care of each other which according to Rankin is a natural fit.

“If you need help call Baldwin he is always willing to lend a helping hand, and he loves to see young bull fighting talent come in to make everyone step up their game, he likes helping young bull fighters hone their craft, they may not always like his advice but he knows what is best . He is a role model for young aspiring bull fighters. Above all Matt Baldwin is a GREAT person.

On a personal note, Matt Baldwin was the first person I interviewed when I came to the first CBR Finals in Las Vegas in January of 2009. Sitting with him at a table during the banquet I learned from the quiet silent bullfighter. Eight years later I ask him many of the same questions…and in true Baldwin fashion…received many of the same answers.

What about injuries?

 “I hate to go to sports medicine, you can’t think you are hurt, I have broken my legs and arms, but you just go on it doesn’t stop you from your job if you really want to do it. Only time I missed a CBR was because of the flu this year and I missed Bossier City.

“Pain is a personal issue (he said) nobody really cares, laughed Baldwin. “It’s all about the business.”

Who are your mentors?

“The members of the 1985 Wrangler Bullfights” – I watched that tape 100,000 thousand times. Rick Chapman, Rex Dunn, Jimmy Anderson – Skipper, Rob Smets, Miles Hare.

What was your most memorable fight? Working with Miles Hare before he retired. We worked a 65 head bull riding and it was a flawless event – a dream come true for me.

Who was the best you ever worked with? Best weekend was with Miles Hare

Hobbies? Raising bucking bulls, I have 28 head that I am in the process of moving from Alabama to Harrison, Georgia.

Do you participate in Free style bullfights? Not really, but I did like to “step out into the “open” occasionally. I have always enjoyed focusing on the bull and getting him to do react.

What is your favorite event?

 “I am a fan of the George Paul Memorial Bull Riding in Del Rio and my all-time favorite event was in Window Rock when we went to the Navajo Nation Fair, the cuisine and the people were just amazing. I don’t look like it, but I am really a foodie at heart.”

Matt Baldwin says he has “stuff” in his rigging bag that have been there since he started. With more weekends free, he plans to return to the dirt track, but is quick to say – I can’t imagine not fighting bulls- it’s what kept  me sane all these years.

If you could hang out with anyone who would that be? I wish my both my grandpas were around and I would hang out with them.

What is it like when you are at your best? I never wanted the bull riding to end, depressed ever weekend when it was over.

What are the wrecks like?

 “You don’t like to see wrecks but it happen and it’s our work and we like to work. But our work is at its best when we don’t get noticed, a routine night - that means we are doing our best.

What do you want to pass on to the younger generation of bullfighters? 

“Patience…I tell the younger guys all the time, enjoy every second of it. Don’t call me complaining because you are stuck in the airport. Find a way to enjoy it, because you will blink and it will be the end.  Have fun and be patient. You don’t have to conquer the bulls every night. Have fun and do your job and rest will take care of itself.”

What makes a good bull fighter?

According to Rankin who has had the daunting task of replacing both Craig Check and Matt Baldwin over the last year they have to be tough, someone who doesn’t panic in sticky situations, someone who is calm, cool and collected and is aware of the situation at all times and one who can actually see a wreck coming before it happens, be willing to take a shot for bull rider if necessary, all the great bull fighters can read livestock and have a great since of what the animal may try to do next.

What makes an exceptional bullfighter like Baldwin?

“All the greats could read livestock, could make the almost impossible saves and never made a big deal about it, exceptional bullfighters are often times the ones that never gets noticed because they sneak in get the bull distracted and everyone walks away, exceptional bullfighters work well with the team they are working with in the arena no matter who else is on the team with the,” said Rankin.