LAS VEGAS – Valdiron de Oliveira sat in front of his locker on Saturday night inside T-Mobile Arena as tears began to well up in his dark eyes.
“I love bull riding, but I love my family more,” Oliveira said before breaking down moments after 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi gave him a hug.
After seriously considering retirement for the past two seasons, Oliveira announced on Saturday night that Sunday will be he his last day as a professional bull rider and that he will be retiring following the conclusion of the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“It is very hard because I need to explain to the fans,” Oliveira said. “They have followed me every year. I did this for the sport for 10 years. I think I did a good job. 402 bulls I stay on and I have two more. I feel like I complete my work. I feel I completed my job and it is time to retire.”
There was a commercial break during Round 4 of the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on CBS Sports Network when the 37-year-old hung his head over the bucking chutes and looked down at Flight Plan.
Oliveira thought about his wife, Andrea, his son, Paulo, and his daughter, Camilla.
“I got to the event and before I get on my bull, I think about them in my head,” Oliveira said before dropping his head into his lap and wiping tears from his eyes. “My family say they don’t want me to hurt no more. My son and daughter are sometimes quiet. They will say, ‘Oh, my dad is hurt.’”
Oliveira doesn’t want his family to worry about him anymore, especially after he has spent the last four years riding with chronic back pain.
“One time my wife said a long time ago when I turn 36, 37, 38 years old she want me to retire,” Oliveira said. “I want to retire before I turn 38 because I had surgery on my back a few years ago. I feel strong, but I feel alright. I am sore. I feel like I want to be done. My family too. I will be OK. I put a lot of my money in the bank and invested in some things.”
Oliveira will retire with the sixth-most rides in PBR history and is one of six riders to record 400 or more rides on the Built Ford Tough Series.
The 10-year veteran finished his career after the 2016 World Finals 403-for-773 (52.13 percent) with 23 90-point rides and 12 event wins. He surpassed 50 qualified rides in a season five times.
“Valdiron is a great rider here in the PBR,” world leader Kaique Pacheco, who recently surpassed 50 rides in a season here in Las Vegas, said with the help of Silvano Alves translating. “He has broken records. When I started to ride, I watched a lot of videos of Valdiron riding. I am proud of his career. I am very happy we rode together. My dream was to ride with all of the best cowboys in the world.”
Oliveira won the Anaheim, California, 15/15 Bucking Battle with a career-high 94-point ride on Buckey.
“There is too many favorite rides,” Oliveira said. “My favorite one, um, Buckey. I scored 94 points. I like that one too.”
Oliveira made his PBR debut in 2007 at the Jack Daniel’s Invitational in Nashville and won his first event in 2008 in New York.
“The first event I won in New York. I remember all of the rides,” he recalled. “It was a big event – three-day event. I rode all of the rank bulls over there. People that didn’t know me were surprised. ‘Who is this guy? Who is this guy?’ I rode perfect and rode all four bulls.
“This is what I will remember for my whole life.”
Marchi won his gold buckle that same season.
“We are going to miss him,” Marchi said. “He is one of the great bull riders we had here for a long time. The fans are going to miss him. The riders are going to miss him. He is a great daddy. He trusts himself to retire.”
Oliveira’s highlight moment of his career came two seasons later when he won the Iron Cowboy title at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
A few days before he won the $260,000 title, Oliveira had stopped at a local bank in Decatur, Texas, to see how he could get approved for a loan to purchase his current ranch.
“I rode Bones (89.5 points), and he was a strong bull too,” Oliveira said. “I will never forget that.”
Oliveira is currently competing in his 10th consecutive World Finals and is eighth in the event average after beginning the week 3-for-4.
He ranks 11th on the PBR’s all-time career money-earners list with over $2.1 million.
“It is a good time to do it and this is a great place to (retire),” said PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert. “Valdiron has been a really good one. He is going out strong. He hasn’t ridden well this year and he is finishing strong this year.”
Flight Plan bucked off Oliveira in 5.78 seconds in Round 4. He drafted Uncle Tink for Round 5.
The Goias, Brazil, bull rider was once a perennial world title contender for five consecutive seasons (2008-2012) before a herniated disc in his lower back forever altered his career.
Oliveira was dominating the 2012 season before he injured his back and watched himself trickle down the standings and finish fourth overall.
In 2011, he finished second to World Champion Alves.
“In 2007, I watch Valdiron in Brazil and he was the best cowboy in Brazil,” Alves said. “He come here and was the best cowboy here too. I rode for two World Championships in competition with him. He was a good competitor and a better guy.”
Oliveira underwent career-threatening back surgery in 2012 in Brazil and returned to competition in 2013 following two months of rigorous rehabilitation with esteemed physical therapist Nivaldo Baldo.
He qualified for the World Finals four straight years following the surgery and finished no lower than 16th in the world standings.
However, Oliveira could never regain his previous form.
“The first thing I wanted was to win the World Championship, but sometimes God has a different plan,” Oliveira said. Not all of the riders are the World champ. Every year, there is only one.”
He will try to do the next best thing and win the World Finals on Sunday afternoon before riding off into the sunset.
“I will try to be much better. I promise,” he concluded. “This is for my daughter, my son, my wife, my family. I want to do the best.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2019 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.