Tumbling Dice: Blake 'Bilko' Williams talks High Rollers
Hopping off the arena rock touring Nitro Circus tour for a fortnight, veteran X Games competitor Blake "Bilko" Williams will apply his FMX skill set this weekend at the Monster Energy FMX High Rollers contest in Las Vegas, Nevada. With 30 of the world's finest freestyle motocross competitors prepared to face off for a big prize purse and a chance to compete at X Games Minneapolis 2017, it's a new event that has the entire sport humming. FMX High Rollers will feature Freestyle Motocross (FMX), Dirt Shark Biggest Whip and FMX Quarterpipe Big Air, Recently, XGames.com caught up with five-time X Games medalist Bilko on what to expect heading into Vegas.
XGames.com: What's this High Rollers thing all about?
Williams: Las Vegas, High Rollers. We basically have a freestyle motocross contest that's a roll of the dice, where the best riders in the world are coming out to compete for a larger purse than X Games has had in a long time. It's going to be the best of the best coming out to roll the dice and put it all on the line for not only a lot of prize money, but a spot in next year's X Games.
So it's also a 2017 X Games qualifier?
Yes, correct. Our sport is basically defined by the X Games and major contests and it's been a while since there has been a qualifier, so now is the chance for everybody to come out and throw it all on the line. This is it: One shot. And what better place to do it than Vegas?
So getting one of those X Games invites would be peace of mind for a guy such as yourself?
Yeah, definitely. If you get in that top three and get that guarantee, it's quite a weight off your shoulders for the next nine months until X Games roll around.
What's your opinion on the state of the freestyle motocross nation right now?
For a while there, it went a little bit stale. We used to have huge courses at the L.A. Coliseum and the Home Depot Center and it kind of lost a little bit of spark. I think this High Rollers contest can be the thing that kick starts it all back off again and really makes it what it used to be and gets everybody really amped and excited. With a new venue next year, I think everybody is excited to not have a small course in an indoor arena for the biggest freestyle contest of the year.
What did you think of the FMX event that ran last year at X Games Austin 2016? The track appeared to be small and the jumps were kept to 75-foot single ramps.
It was great to have freestyle motocross back as a stepping stone to building a future. The fact that the sport actually did make an appearance again at X Games and the contest went pretty damn well kind of just cemented that freestyle motocross is back and will be on the rise.
Who will be the contenders come show time on Saturday?
You can see the fire in Clinton Moore's eyes. He's already qualified for the X Games, but he's coming for the big prize purse. He's flying all the way from Australia because he wants that first prize check. Taka [Higashino], I mean that guy rides every day. Adam Jones has been on Nitro Circus for the last few months doing trick after trick and just blowing everybody's minds. Levi Sherwood, he's been in New Zealand this whole time just flying under the radar. You've got no idea of what he's been practicing and what he's been doing. He always comes out swinging and he's got the best style and execution in the sport. To win, I think it's going to be the guy that makes the least mistakes and executes everything perfectly.
How about you? Can you win?
I don't know if I can win. I definitely want to put on a good show for the fans. It would be awesome to get a top three. Let's just go there and get out of there in one piece. There are a lot of guys out there with a lot of huge tricks and I'm playing catch up a little bit. We'll have to see how it goes, but I'm definitely aiming for that top three so I'm in for next year's X Games.
You've been all over the world throughout the last year spreading the FMX gospel. What's your overall take on the sport and where it's at? Are there still a lot of fans who really like it? Is there still some energy out there?
There is s till a lot of energy and still a lot of fans who support it. It's just been hard because we haven't had a real event to showcase what we can do and what our sport is. I think this High Rollers contest at the Monster Energy Cup will be something to give it a little fire and bring it back. And the X Games are looking good, as well, with a new indoor venue and no restrictions on weather and risk. I think they're going to go all out and do a proper freestyle course like we used to see. I think all of this is just going to ignite the fire. I think this is all just going to start a new chapter.