Ryan Dirteater has fitting name for bull rider

Ryan Dirteater, riding Air Bender at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 16, says his fitting name isn’t a marketing ploy. Photo by Anthony Behar *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***
Ryan Dirteater, riding Air Bender at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 16, says his fitting name isn’t a marketing ploy. Photo by Anthony Behar *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field *** <137>Anthony Behar/<137>Sipa USA

He has the perfect last name for a bull rider – Dirteater.

Ryan Dirteater, a professional bull rider who will compete in the Sacramento Invitational on Friday and Saturday at Sleep Train Arena, agreed his name is catchy but that it certainly isn’t a marketing ploy. He said at least four generations of Dirteaters have farmed and ranched in northeast Oklahoma, about an hour outside of Tulsa.

“People remember the name, that’s for sure,” said Dirteater, a 25-year-old native of Hulbert, Okla. “Being a bull rider, I guess the name chose me. Ironic, ain’t it?”

To help prepare for the 2,000-pound bulls he’ll fight over the next two days, Dirteater has continued the string of riders to train with Team Alpha Male at Urijah Faber’s Ultimate Fitness gym in Sacramento, where he spent Thursday morning wrestling with UFC featherweight Chad Mendes.

Mendes said he trained with the Professional Bull Riders’ Reese Cates and Chase Outlaw before last year’s PBR event in Sacramento and came away impressed.

“I was surprised with their wrestling technique,” Mendes said. “They’re super-tough guys, no doubt, and you have to be a little crazy to get on a bull. But they always put on great shows.”

Mendes grew up in Hanford, just south of Fresno, and had plenty of buddies who rode bulls. But he never got on one because he feared an injury could hurt his chance of earning a college wrestling scholarship, which he received from Cal Poly.

“I’ve met Chad a couple of times, and some of my bull-riding buddies have worked out there and said it was great,” Dirteater said. “(MMA) is hard-core. I used to wrestle in high school, but Chad and I will just wrestle. I’m not about to spar with him.”

So Dirteater is more afraid of a 145-pound human with leather gloves than he is of a one-ton animal with horns?

“Nah,” Dirteater said with a chuckle. “We’ll just have some fun out on the mats and get in some cardio. It’s much better than spending time in some hotel room.”

Life on the PBR circuit involves a lot of travel broken up by eight-second intervals riding the bulls – at least the riders hope for the requisite eight seconds so they can earn a score from the judges. But with bulls intent on getting the riders off their backs in any way possible, rides often end much sooner, and most riders, well, eat dirt.

“You want to get on that bull for eight seconds and then get right off,” Dirteater said. “The PBR doesn’t pay us overtime.”

Dirteater said he once tried to put an arm bar MMA move on a bull as he slid down from the mount. It didn’t go well.

“Yeah, he put me into the fence and then stomped me,” he said.

In 124 PBR events in seven years, Dirteater has ridden 140 of the 348 bulls he has cinched his hand upon, and his average score is 84.98 points on a scale of 0 to 100. Scores of 90 and above are considered outstanding. Dirteater won his first PBR event in 2009 in Dallas and won again in 2011 in Wichita, Kan.

Dirteater appreciates that the early part of the PBR schedule is on the West Coast, where the weather is mild, even though riders compete in arenas. Considering the thousands of miles they drive each year, not having to chain up to make it through blizzards is a plus, he said.

“The bulls are great out here, and the weather is always beautiful,” he said. “Plus the crowds out west, the fans, are always awesome. Without them, we wouldn’t be out there riding bulls.”

Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at or @editorwriter001.


What: Professional Bull Riders event

When: Friday, 8 p.m., and Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: Sleep Train Arena

Tickets: Starting at $15; (800) 745-3000 or

TV: Saturday, 7 p.m., CBSSN