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Cooper Davis rides Compact during the third round of the World Finals (photo by Andy Watson)

Cooper Davis rides Compact during the third round of the World Finals in Las Vegas (photo by Andy Watson)

Madison Square Garden
31st - 33rd Sts. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
January 15-17, $25-$207 ($505 for PBR Elite Seats)

Professional bull rider Cooper Davis had quite a 2015. The Wharton, Texas, native turned twenty-one, had a son, got married, and, in October, became the first rookie since Jody Newberry in 2003 to win the World Finals, earning him a check for a quarter of a million dollars. Davis will be in New York City January 15-17 for the Professional Bull Riders Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden, when the best riders in the country will be battling bulls and the clock at the World’s Most Famous Arena for the tenth consecutive year. Started in 1992 by twenty bull riders from the rodeo circuit, the PBR has been growing ever since; in April 2015, it was acquired by entertainment, sports, and fashion heavyweight WME | IMG, which owns and produces such live events as the Miami Open tennis tournament, distributes more than 32,000 hours of sports programming each year, and represents such stars as Oprah Winfrey, Cam Newton, Ben Affleck, Adele, Wayne Gretzky, and Serena Williams. Davis recently took more than eight seconds — the time a competitor must stay atop a bull in order for the ride to qualify — to discuss his family, his weight conditioning, his favorite bulls, swimming with sharks, getting hazed as a rookie, and coming to New York for the first time in this exclusive twi-ny talk.

twi-ny: Congratulations on winning the World Finals event in Las Vegas. You surprised a lot of people with the victory; did you surprise yourself?

Cooper Davis: I don’t think I really surprised myself because I put a lot of hard work and dedication into preparing for that event. Since I started working out three months ago, that was my original goal — to win the World Finals. I didn’t expect to win an event before the World Finals, because I knew it would be a process getting my weight down and adjusting my riding to the new weight.

twi-ny: Yes, you recently dropped a lot of weight. What do you think your ideal weight is?

cd: Going into the finals I was 144; I think my ideal weight is 145–150 pounds.

twi-ny: What kind of diet are you on to maintain your conditioning?

cd: Two thousand calories a day — two thousand good calories, not fried chicken and burgers. Eating healthy and clean and continuing to go to the gym will be critical to my performance here on out.

twi-ny: You recently got married and have a baby boy. Does having a family change the way you approach bull riding? For example, how do you balance the desire to earn more money to support the family with the need to be safe and healthy for your wife and son? Or is it that you’re only twenty-one, so anything goes at this point?

cd: Bull riding is going to be a dangerous sport no matter if you have a family or not. You have to put that in the back of your mind — take one bull at a time and don’t put the pressure of providing for your family on yourself. You know, it does feel good though when you can provide for your family doing something that you love.

Cooper Davis poses with his wife, Kaitlyn, their son, Mackston, and a big check at the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas (photo by Andy Watson)

Cooper Davis poses with his wife, Kaitlyn, their son, Mackston, and a big check at the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas (photo by Andy Watson)

twi-ny: How did you get involved in professional bull riding? You played football and baseball in high school in Texas as well, but you started riding bulls when you were fourteen, is that right?

cd: Yes. I didn’t start riding until my sister started dating a guy (to whom she is now married, Clayton Foltyn) who rode bulls professionally. He even went to the PBR World Finals a couple of times. I looked up to him a lot and learned a lot from him. I have to give a lot of credit to him.

twi-ny: Does it get scarier or easier as time goes by?

cd: You have to learn how to deal with the pressure. When I’m out there, I don’t think a lot about the bull riding aspect of it. My mind is pretty blank when I nod [the signal for the gate to open and the ride to start]. I can sit on the back of the chutes beforehand and hang out and joke. I don’t get very emotional about it.

twi-ny: Nothing else is going through your mind that split second before you nod and the gate is opened?

cd: A lot of the time you can study a bull and try to figure out his patterns. However, I think the less you think about it, like I do, is better so you can react to him. He may not always follow the pattern that you study.

twi-ny: You’ve said that Black Betty is your favorite bull, all fifteen hundred pounds of him. What makes riding him so special?

cd: It was one of the first bulls that I got a 90-point score on. He was really showy. I like a few other bulls now, but he will always be one of my favorites. Any bull you can be 90 points on is going to be on the favorites list.

twi-ny: What is the experience of riding a bull like?

cd: I went swimming in Cancun over the summer with some whale sharks, and it was the same type of adrenaline rush. It’s like you’re looking right into the face of death sometimes, and I guess the closer to death you get, the more alive you feel.

twi-ny: Do you have any rituals you perform the day of an event?

cd: I will go to the gym and run two to three miles depending on how I feel. If I am sore, I will stretch and try to work it all out. I’ll then go to sports med and try to get to feeling the best I can. I am not very superstitious, though. A lot of guys won’t eat chicken beforehand, because you are what you eat!

twi-ny: When you’re not riding bulls, you’re a student. What are you studying?

cd: I don’t go to college anymore. I went for a semester and figured out that college was not for me at this point in my life. I didn’t want to waste my prime years of bull riding and then wake up years from now wondering what I could have done.

twi-ny: Might law be in your future, down the road?

cd: While I did want to be a lawyer when I was younger, now, however, I would go back for occupational therapy. I would like to work with special-needs children.

twi-ny: As a rookie on the PBR tour, is there any kind of hazing or teasing you get from the other riders?

cd: Some of the older guys like to pick a lot, like J. W. Harris. I’ve been around him a lot. He likes to joke and pick. One time I came into the locker room and my gear bag and rope and helmet were tied to the ceiling. There’s a lot of picking, but they do give you good advice, too. You just have to go with the joking stuff.

twi-ny: Does any of it change after winning such a big event as the World Finals?

cd: No. All of the guys like to pick around. And, I like to joke as well so I don’t think it matters if you’ve been there fifteen years or are a rookie — there’s a lot of picking going on.

twi-ny: The PBR will be celebrating its tenth anniversary at Madison Square Garden January 15–17. In general, MSG is more well known as being home to the Knicks and the Rangers, boxing and the circus, and the Grateful Dead and Billy Joel than country music, rodeos, and bull riding. Will this be your first time riding in New York City, or first time in NYC at all?

cd: It will be my first time in New York. I am really excited about it. It’s one of the events I’ve been looking forward to all season long. It will be neat to ride in MSG because it’s not something New Yorkers get to see every day, and it will be a different atmosphere for me, as well.

twi-ny: What do you expect from the fans?

cd: While I would expect they won’t be as familiar with the bull riding as fans in southern cities, they may actually enjoy it more because they’re not around bull riding as much.

twi-ny: While you’re here in the city, is there anything you’re looking forward to doing aside from competing, like seeing any specific sights?

cd: I am going to walk around Madison Square Garden and take in as much of it in as I can. I will probably only go there once a year, so I am going to try to see as much as I can.

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