Meet 8 Bullfighters to look out for at this San Fermín

Meet 8 Bullfighters to look out for at this San Fermín

Every July, Pamplona brings the best of the best bullfighters from around the world to fight in the city's Plaza de Toros. Some are experienced veterans, while others are up-and-coming stars. They're all ready to impress the crowds at the Running of the Bulls festival this year.

Join us as we take a closer look at eight spectacular bullfighters you might see at San Fermín this year, learning about their stories and what makes them stand out in this ancient sport. From their courage to their technique, they're sure to leave a lasting impression on everyone who watches.

Andrés Roca Rey

Roca Rey is a young Peruvian bullfighter who has taken the bullfighting world by storm - so much so that he's even been called the "Messi of Matadors." Coming from a long line of bullfighting aficionados, Roca Rey began his bullfighting journey at the age of just seven years old. Gifted a calf by breeder Rafael Puga, he made his debut in the town of Paiján in northern Peru in 2007 and soon gained recognition across the bullfighting world. 

He began his professional bullfighting career in 2015, after he took his alternativa in Nîmes, France. This debut saw Roca Rey triumphantly leaving the arena with two ears of the bull. Flash forward to today, and Roca Rey sells out arenas around the world, with hundreds of thousands of adoring fans hoping to catch a glimpse of what is truly bullfighting history-in-the-making.

Roca Rey is known for his tremendous courage and resilience; in several instances, he has returned to face his second bull of the evening even after being seriously gored during his first bull. Despite his young age, he has exited the arena through the Puerta Grande on the shoulders of the crowd more times than most matadors can hope for in a lifetime.

Antonio Cayetano Rivera Ordoñez

Cayetano comes from a long line of matadors. His great-grandfather, known in the bullring as "El Niño de la Palma," inspired the character of the young matador in Hemingway's acclaimed novel, The Sun Also Rises. His grandfather and father were also matadors, and his brother Francisco is currently a matador. Cayetano's father tragically died from a goring by the bull "Avispado" when Cayetano was only eight. 

Cayetano made his debut in 2005, at the Ronda bullring, and he soon ranked second among novilleros, receiving the prestigious Oreja de Plata award from Clarín de Radio Nacional as the best beginner-bullfighter of the season. His official presentation as a novillero at La Maestranza de Sevilla in 2006 earned him accolades, as he secured an ear from each of his bulls.

Beyond the bullring, Cayetano ventured into modeling in 2007, striding alongside Roberta Armani as the face of Armani's collection during Milan Fashion Week. He also starred in the advertising campaign for the Italian brand's bespoke suits. His association with Armani extended to the design of his luxurious trajes de luces for the Feria Goyesca bullfight in 2009, in which bullfighters and several members of the audience wear 18th-century costumes.

Julián "El Juli" López Escobar

Madrid's El Juli is a legend in Pamplona and across the bullfighting world. His training in bullfighting started at the age of nine, and, after taking his alternativa at age fifteen, he became the youngest professional bullfighter in the history of the sport. By age seventeen, El Juli had become the highest-paid bullfighter in history.

El Juli is a favorite in Pamplona for his longstanding love of the Running of the Bulls festival; he has fought in bullfights at San Fermín for over 20 years, and he has achieved some of his greatest triumphs of his career in the city's Plaza de Toros. However, his signature moves are truly what sets him apart. For example, El Juli sometimes dismisses his banderilleros so that he can place the banderillas (spiked darts) in the bull by himself - performing both the job of the matador and the matador's assistants. He is also known for his use of signature cape-work techniques; for example, his caracol passor "snail pass" cape movement, involves twirling his cape in a spiral as the bull charges towards him.

Rafael “Rafaelillo” Rubio Luján

Rafaelillo (@RRRafaelillo) / X

Rafaelillo is an acclaimed bullfighter from Murcia, Spain, who made his debut in 1995 in Nîmes, France. From a young age, his prowess in the bullring earned him the moniker of a prodigy, showcasing remarkable fluidity in facing the bulls.

Following his rise as a novillero, or bullfighter-in-training, Rafaelillo undertook his alternativa to become a torero, or full-fledged bullfighter, in 1996, after which he faced a period of fewer engagements and even went several years without fights. However, his career eventually saw a resurgence, fueled by a significant triumph at the confirmation of his alternativa in the Las Ventas arena in Madrid. Subsequent victories in Las Ventas and renowned arenas, such as the Plaza de Toros in Pamplona, cemented his fame as one of the foremost bullfighters on the global stage.

Antonio Ferrera

File:Antonio Ferrera.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Antonio Ferrera, born in Villafranco del Guadiana (Badajoz), Spain, developed his passion for bullfighting at an early age. Making his debut at 13 in Alcuéscar, he later showcased his talent across Extremadura and Portugal. Ferrera's distinctive style, marked by a strong personality and commitment, earned him recognition, particularly for his mastery in the tercio de banderillas. 

He attained matador status in 1997, impressively cutting four ears on his debut. Throughout his career, he garnered numerous accolades, including triumphs in prestigious venues like Las Ventas and notable seasons marked by multiple victories. Despite setbacks due to injuries, Ferrera consistently displayed his skill and resilience, earning him acclaim among critics and fans alike. In 2022, he ranked third in the bullfighting rankings, cementing his legacy as one of the sport's enduring figures.

Román Collado

Román Collado is a bullfighter from Valencia, Spain, who started his training in bullfighting at the Escuela de Tauromaquia of Valencia at just twelve years old. He took the alternativa in Nîmes, France, where El Juli acted as his padrino (sponsor). His performance earned him two of the bull's ears as a trophy, both awarded for his first bull of the afternoon. He has mentioned that he displays the iconic green and gold traje de luces that he wore during that memorable fight in a showcase in his home.

In August 2017, a bullfight at the Las Ventas arena in Madrid earned Collado an exit from the Puerta Grande on the shoulders of his adoring fans - the highest honor for a matador. Roman Collado's performances mark him as a promising talent in the world of bullfighting.

Rubén Pinar

Rubén Pinar, born in Albacete, Spain, made his debut with picadores in Bogotá on January 15, 2006. His performance at Las Ventas on July 8, 2007, alongside novilleros Oliva Soto and Sandra Moscoso, earned him victory in the Novilladas de Las Ventas Contest. He took his alternativa in Nimes on September 21, 2008, with Enrique Ponce as padrino. Notably, on February 21, 2009, he pardoned the bull Corzo in Medellín. He confirmed his alternativa in Madrid in 2009 with Morante de la Puebla as his patrino. In 2019, in his hometown of Albacete, he performed an encerrona, facing six bulls from different farms and cutting a total of four ears.

Jesús Enrique Colombo

Jesús Enrique Colombo en la Copa Chenel

Born in San Cristóbal, Venezuela, on September 29, 1997, Jesús Enrique Colombo inherited a legacy of bullfighting. His father, Jesús Colombo, was a revered matador. Inspired by his family's tradition, Jesús Enrique pursued bullfighting from a young age. He trained at the Madrid Bullfighting School and debuted in the town of Deba, Spain, in 2014. 

His career soared, highlighted by ovations in Mexico and notable performances in Spain. Despite setbacks, including a severe goring in Valencia in 2017, Colombo's determination remained steadfast. In 2018, he became a full-fledged matador, earning accolades in Europe and America. With each triumph, Jesús Enrique Colombo solidified his place as a rising star in the bullfighting arena, showcasing his unwavering dedication and passion for the art form.


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