Going toe to toe against a fearsome competitor can be intimidating — even more so when your competitor is several hundreds of pounds heavier than you and equipped with two large, pointed horns.
The adrenaline rush world champion bullfighter Cade Gibson gets from battling bulls is hard to put into words.
“Bar none,” he said, “(it’s) the best feeling there is.”
Gibson was one of six bullfighters who competed at the Kaw Valley Rodeo on Saturday. At the end of the night, Gibson ended on top, with a score of 87 out of 100 possible points.
Bullfighters try to elude the bulls for 60 seconds, earning points from the judges based on how well they maneuver around the bull.
“Sixty seconds doesn’t seem like a very long time, but your blood is pumping, your heart is going 90 mph hour and that 60 seconds feels like an eternity at times,” Gibson said, “but the longer you stay in it you’re really able to see and read that bull.”
Born and raised in a small town about an hour north of Dallas — called Pilot Point — Gibson said his family has been around the rodeo scene for what feels like “forever.” But he didn’t start bullfighting until his rodeo career ended nearly two and a half years ago.
“I grew up rodeoing and went to my first rodeo at 2 weeks old with my dad when he was still riding bulls and bucking horses,” Gibson said. “I started off roping, bucking horses and riding, then hung it all up after high school. I picked up fighting bulls for fun with some of my buddies and found a knack for it.”
Gibson was a multi-sport athlete in high school. He credited his “athletic background” for his quick rise in the sport.
“Coming from playing football, baseball and all that definitely played into helping me solidify my spot and try to be amongst the best each and every day,” he said.
In 2018, Gibson claimed the first-ever American Freestyle Bull Fighting world title at the AFB World Championship held in Uvalde, Texas. Gibson said his championship run was unlike anything he’d ever experienced.
“Being able to go a year long against the best guys in the business, multiple-time world champions like Evan Allard, guys who are stepping in there that have been runners-up (multiple times), it’s amazing,” Gibson said.
Dakota Knight, the caretaker for all the fighting bulls who appeared in the Kaw Valley Rodeo (and who doubles as a bullfighter himself), said watching Gibson fight his bulls is a bit strange.
“It’s kind of hard for me to sit back here sometimes. Whenever I bring bulls, I want them to be running ‘Gibby’ over and hooking him — don’t hurt him, but I want a show,” Knight said with a laugh.
A show is exactly what Knight got. Gibson’s 60-second run included several dodges, head taps and even a near-perfect timed jump over the bull that led to an emphatic roar from the crowd.
Gibson capped off his fight with a WWE-esque celebration.
He jumped on top of the fence, threw his cowboy hat in the air and pumped his fist while being lauded by the hundreds of fans in attendance.
Following Gibson’s victory, he said he’s eager to return to Manhattan for next year’s Kaw Valley Rodeo.
“Great crowds — we feed off of crowds,” Gibson said. “Without them, it’s just a bunch of us cowboys in the arena playing with some big farm animals. They love it, and I think it’s going to get bigger here.”
Kaw Valley Rodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Waylon Guy Bourgeois 76 ($1,098.10), 2. Yance Day 73($831.90), 3. Mike Fred 70 ($598.96).
Steer wrestling: 1. Denver Berry 4.5 ($1,431.15), T2. Jeff Miller ($1,061.02), T2. Jarek VanPetten ($1,061.02).
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Curtis Garton 80.5 ($1,247), 2. Treyson Antonick 79.5 ($944.70), 3. Ryder Sanford 76 ($680.18).
Tie down roping: 1. Will Howell 9.2 ($1,410.70), 2. Jeff Miller 9.7 ($1,167.48), 3. Luke Madsen 10.0 ($924.25).
Team roping: 1. Cale Markham and Brye Crites 6.1 ($984.55), T2. Cole Pearson and Raylen Stueve 6.5 ($729.93), T2. Andrew Ward and Reagan Ward 6.5 ($729.93).
Barrel racing: 1. Skyla Whitters 17.55 ($1,283.10), 2. Leslie Smalygo 17.69 ($1,099.80), 3. Alexis Baratka 17.72 ($916.50).
Bull riding: 1. Trey Holston 84 ($2,452.02), 2. Cole Fischer 76. ($2,088.76), No other qualified rides.