DULUTH, Ga. – Marcelo Procopio Pereira could not stop smiling atop the Can-Am shark cage inside the Gas South Arena Sunday afternoon. He was still in “disbelief” that he had won his first career event after Chase Dougherty surprisingly bucked off 2021 YETI World Champion Woopaa.
The grateful Pereira posed for a photo in front of PBR photographer Andy Watson before making a beeline for a fan at the edge of the arena.
The fan had been waving a Brazilian flag passionately as the fireworks went off in salute of Pereira’s victory, and the 26-year-old bull rider wanted to go say thank you and sign autographs for a few fans.
The relatively unknown rider in his second year on the Unleash The Beast even got a standing ovation from a few sections of fans in the area as he autographed a few more hats and programs before waving and jogging off to the locker room.
“This is great,” a humble Pereira said on Sunday afternoon. “Our fans are like family to us. I am just so happy. Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and realize I won. Right now, it is just, ‘Oh my goodness.’”
Pereira earned his first Unleash The Beast victory with a 91.75-point ride on Chiseled in the championship round of the PBR Gwinnett Invitational to cap his 3-for-3 weekend. Pereira was smooth all weekend in Duluth, converting on two re-rides during the event and riding GT Flying High for 86 points and Dirty Sancho for 86.75 points.
“This was my first opportunity to ride Chiseled,” Pereira said. “I love him, but I never had the opportunity. I knew I had a chance to pick him with the second pick. He is such a good bull. Every time, he is 90, 91 points. This is my first event win. I am so happy.”
Part of Pereira’s shock at winning his first event stemmed from who he had to surpass in the event standings.
Chase Dougherty had entered the championship round draft and, rightfully, selected 2021 YETI World Champion Bull Woopaa, who was ridden eight times in 2021 for 90-plus points.
But Woopaa dashed Dougherty’s hopes of his own first event win in 3.21 seconds.
“Today, I am still so surprised,” Pereira said. “Chase is a good bull rider. Woopaa is a good bull. I thought Chase would be 92-93 points. Oh my gosh, I thought he was going to win. He is such a good bull rider. This was a surprise.”
Coincidentally, Pereira’s victory came on the one-year anniversary of his first event win at any level on American soil – the 2021 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour’s Greenville Invitational.
“How very amazing is this?” Pereira said. “Same day. Same month.”
It was a monumental win for Pereira after he nearly walked away from the sport two years ago. The then-24-year-old was going to apply for his visa, and if he were denied, he would most likely give up on his dream and retire because of a slew of injuries.
By the time Pereira turned 18, he had already undergone three different surgeries, two on his shoulders and one on his right knee. The injuries only continued to pile up on him in his early 20s.
“If I didn’t get it, then I was going to quit riding bulls,” Pereira told PBR.com last year. “I had so many injuries when I first started. I had so many great compliments that I was going to be a great cowboy, but I would keep getting hurt.”
Pereira was able to let out a sigh of relief Sunday as he stood outside the locker room for another reason. He knew he was running out of time to stay on the Unleash The Beast and avoid being relegated to the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour.
Now Pereira will head to Sacramento, California, for this weekend’s three-day PBR Wrangler Long Live Cowboys Classic ranked No. 7 in the world standings.
Pereira finished his first PBR season last year No. 23 in the world standings and qualified for his first PBR World Finals by going 18-for-60 (30.86%) on the premier series.
Riders who finished 1-25 in the world standings are guaranteed five Unleash The Beast events before facing the cutline.
Pereira did not want to face that scenario this weekend, and now he can focus on building off his first victory with potentially further success in 2022. The Whitesboro, Texas, resident is looking forward to riding less than 100 miles from home at the 2022 PBR World Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, this coming May in front of his girlfriend, family and friends.
“I only had one more event to stay on the Unleash The Beast,” Pereira said. “I knew I had to do well. I work hard every day to stay here. The PBR has so many good riders. I need to work every day.”
Article Courtesy of PBR
Photo By Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media