Soccer is the most popular sport in Brazil, but its most successful athletes in the United States play with bulls, not balls.
Renato Nunes dominated the PBR World Finals by sweeping the world championship and the five-day Finals aggregate title Sunday before a crowd of 16,261 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Nunes, 29, earned a $1 million bonus for winning the championship and $250,000 for wrangling the aggregate title to push his 2010 earnings to $1.58 million.
Nunes became the fourth Brazilian to win the championship in the 17-year history of the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series.
Nunes is the second PBR rider to win both titles in one year; Mike Lee did it in 2004.
"Now I think about if I'll live after tonight," the jovial Nunes said, envisioning the celebration. "It will be hard to sleep tonight after getting my dream.
"That's good money. I never in my life thought I'd win so much."
This year's earnings pushed Nunes' career total to just over $2.5 million in five years of PBR competition.
Nunes began the Finals third in points, trailing Austin Meier of Kinta, Okla., and J.B. Mauney of Mooresville, N.C.
Meier covered his bull in the first round but was bucked off in next two while Mauney was bucked off in the first four go-rounds.
That opened the door for Nunes and he responded by placing second on opening night and fourth in the second round before winning the third.
"I think that put some pressure on those guys," Nunes said, before joking, "I won because I'm the best."
Meier finished second in points and Mauney third.
"Last year, J.B. and (champion Kody) Lostroh made it the best World Finals I ever saw," Nunes said of the riders combining to successfully ride 15 of 16 bulls. "Last year the Americans won all the money and this year the Brazilians won all the money."
Not exactly true, but the Brazilians dominated in Las Vegas this year. In April, with Nunes leading the way, Team Brazil won the PBR World Cup by a wide margin over the runner-up Americans. Nunes clinched that victory when he rode for 89.5 points in the final round.
At the World Finals, Brazilians won four of the six rounds. Finishing behind Nunes in the Finals standings were countrymen Silvano Alves and Wesley Lourenco.
The highest-finishing American was Dustin Elliott of North Platte, Neb., who rode four of six bulls to place fourth. Elliott will be back in Las Vegas to compete in the National Finals Rodeo from Dec. 2 to 11.
Another Brazilian, Robson Palermo, made a miraculous comeback. Less than 24 hours after he was carried from the arena with a possible fractured neck after a nasty buck-off after winning the go-round, he returned to ride twice Sunday, including a 91.5-point ride to win the 15-man short-go.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.