By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Matt Buyten claimed that the 2016 X Games was his final appearance. For many X Games competitors, they look for second avenues to compete as they move away from the extreme sports platform that’s hosted annually on ESPN.
Buyten recently completed a six-week stint as a Metal Mulisha Monster Jam Monster Truck driver. He is a 12-time X Games medalist.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s an intense experience too — in team sports, you have others out there with you — but unlike them, you are the only one out there. I like the independence of it, so all the results rely on you and your sponsors.”
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At X Games Austin in 2016, he competed in his 15th games.
“It’s more intense,” Buyten said. “Any competition is intense, whether you are with a team or not. It’s rewarding, but the intensity is awesome.”
Buyten mentioned that he had been working with Feld Inc. about trying out in a Monster Truck. Then, five years later, he received his opportunity.
“I’ve gotten the itch to find my second avenue after riding freestyle motocross for so long,” Buyten said. “I thought driving a Monster Truck would be cool, so I followed up with them. I ended up getting a couple of training sessions — then was finally in a truck five years later.”
Riding a dirt bike and driving a Monster Truck is very different. But Buyten says he felt comfortable pretty quickly in a Monster Truck.
“I have a motorsports background and previously raced off-road trucks and legend cars,” Buyten said. “I also raced go-karts, so I’m familiar with that kind of racing. But I need more seat time in a Monster Truck. The difference is that you are freer and can move around wherever you want on a bike. In the Monster Truck, you are strapped down in there and you cannot move. We’re strapped down like NASCAR drivers are. The parts that you can see are where you move your eyeballs around and what’s not blocking the view in the truck.
“That took some time to get used to, as you cannot be claustrophobic because you are strapped down in a big wild cage with 1,500 horsepower. It took some time to get used to, but that’s what I live for and love. I love the intense action and the challenge of new things.”
Buyten is the latest former X Games competitor to go into a racing sport. Travis Pastrana went from X Games to Rally Cars, before starting Nitro Circus. Brian Deegan, who started Metal Mulisha, went from the X Games to Off-Road Racing.
“These guys [Pastrana and Deegan] are legendary and pioneers in freestyle motocross,” Buyten said. “I’m happy to be on the second wave of guys that came in, as a pioneer, and follow in their footsteps. They showed guys that you can transfer — and there are some legendary guys like Ricky Johnson, Damon Bradshaw, and Jeremy McGrath — that have also made the transfer from motorcycles.
“It’s an elite group and to be on the same page as them, it’s not an easy task for sure, as there are so many, who ride motorcycles that have competed in the X Games. Dave Mirra, Bucky Lasik, are champions on skateboards and BMX. They’ve also transferred over to car racing with Rally Cars. It’s cool to be a part of it, but I’m happy to be on this new journey.”
Buyten replaced long-time Metal Mulisha driver Todd Leduc, who is now the driver of the Monster Energy Monster Truck. Metal Mulisha, which was started by Deegan and Larry Linkogle, sponsors many action sports athletes.
“We’re a bunch of guys who like to go out free riding,” he said. “We like to have a good time — and were known as the bad boy group of freestyle motocross. We’re a bunch of buddies that like to ride our bikes together.”
One of the drivers that Buyten would have liked to work with was Bradshaw. He informed The Capital Sports Report that Bradshaw was not brought back to Monster Jam this year.
“Damon has not given me any advice,” Buyten said. “Monster Jam and Bradshaw have decided to go their separate ways this season. One of my goals was to get a drive with him if I got into a truck. That’s unfortunate.”
During his six-week tenure with Monster Jam, he did not face Tom Meents in Max D or Dennis Anderson, the legendary Grave Digger driver, or his sons Ryan Anderson or Adam Anderson.
“Those guys are top-notch drivers for sure,” he said. “I haven’t gone against them yet. I’m not sure if they’re going to bring me to the Vegas finals (March 23-25) yet. If so, I’d imagine I’ll face them there.”
This past weekend, Buyten completed the six-week schedule at UTEP Stadium in El Paso, Texas. He’d like to be invited to the World Finals in a few weeks.
“That would mean everything,” he said. “To be in the limelight with X Games over the past 13-years — and I’ve decided to walk away from X Games because I’ve spent my time there and had a good run. But I feel like it’s my time to go away from that. To be able to compete in the Vegas Finals, it would be like I’m in the X Games all over again. It would be pretty awesome for sure.
“It’s intense. I went last year and watched. The competition is tough, but it’s an amazing event. I would love to be a part of it this year.”
With his tenure up, at least for now, he would like to get the chance to remain a Monster Jam Monster Truck driver.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “They haven’t told me if I will be going to Vegas. I’m just on a trial basis right now. I’m just trying to do my job and hopefully, I’ll hear something soon. From being in the truck in the weeks that I have, I would like to stick around longer. I’ve loved every minute of this experience.”
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