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A Championship Journey

In only 14 months, Cooper Davis of Jasper, Texas, went from borderline Built Ford Tough Series rider to PBR World Champion. For Cooper and Kaitlyn Davis it has been one wild ride. | BY: Justin Felisko

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Cooper Davis rides John Peck/Kaplow Insurance/Viducic Bucking Bulls’s Jailhouse Jr. for 89.25 during the Championship round of the Kansas City Built Ford Tough series PBR. Photo by Andy Watson

Cooper Davis was sitting in his hotel room on the 12th floor of the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino on the last day of the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals when he looked at his wife, Kaitlyn.

“The money doesn’t matter,” Cooper said to Kaitlyn. “But fulfilling that dream of being able to wear that buckle for the rest of my life matters. I want to win that gold buckle.”

Cooper was making his final preparations to head over to T-Mobile Arena when he went to kiss Kaitlyn and his son, Mack, goodbye.

“Well, when I come back I might be a World Champion,’” Cooper said.

Kaitlyn replied, “I hope you are, but if not, it is what it is and God has a plan. Always.”

Cooper’s rock of stability later sent him a text message just before the start of the final day of the 2016 season. Her husband was 226.58 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco and was right in the thick of completing his childhood dream.

The seven days in Las Vegas had been an emotional rollercoaster with qualified rides one night and heartbreaking buckoffs the next. She knew Cooper was ready, but she also knew just how much pressure he was putting on himself.

“I sent him a text and I said, ‘No matter what happens, it is only year two. You have so many more years left. Just calm down, do what you know to do, and it will all work out.’”

Cooper Davis rides Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger/Clay Struve/Miller’s Catfish John for 91 during the fifth round of the Built Ford Tough series PBR World Finals. Photo by Andy Watson

Fast forward to a little after 5 p.m. and Kaitlyn was making her way back to her seat from the concessions stand when she saw Mack, the couple’s 1-year-old son, and herself being broadcast on the in-arena jumbotron. Pacheco had just been bucked off by Slinger Jr in 6.46 seconds during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

“I am like, ‘What is happening? Why am I on the big screen?’

Eventually, she was told Cooper, who had won Round 5 with a 91-point ride on Catfish John, was the 2016 PBR World Champion. Kaitlyn was holding Mack with one arm, while trying to use her other arm to fan herself as the emotional rollercoaster of Cooper’s year of hard work had finally come to fruition.

“It was wild,” Kaitlyn said. “I started crying immediately. I just thought he was about to ride. I didn’t know he won.”

“It is the greatest feeling in the world,” Cooper said. “It is what I worked for so hard for my whole life, especially these last two years. I am really happy that the hard work paid off.”

Cooper Davis during Round 5 of the 2016 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas, NV – 11.6.2016. Photo by Christopher Thompson

Two months earlier it appeared Davis’ World Championship dreams were shattered because of a broken clavicle. Instead, Davis underwent surgery on September 14, 2016, and returned to competition in only 17 days and missed only two events.  Davis regained the world No. 1 ranking with two victories in San Jose, California, 32 days and three events after Dr. Tandy Freeman, a Dallas resident, used a steel plate and three screws to fix Davis’ clavicle.

“I just think it is a never say die attitude,” Cooper said. “I don’t want to make an excuse. If I fall off, I fall off. I don’t believe in a whole lot of excuses.”

Kaitlyn was almost in tears in San Jose.

“To come back 17 days after surgery is pretty crazy and pretty honorable for anybody to be able to do that,” Kaitlyn said. “I am so proud. It makes me want to cry. He used to watch the PBR when he was Mackston’s age. He would come to all of these events. He used to tell his parents, ‘I want to be a World Champion.’”

Fifty-three days later and he was able to look at his parents and say, “I am a World Champion.”

Cooper Davis during Round 5 of the 2016 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas, NV – 11.6.2016. Photo by Christopher Thompson

Even Kaitlyn admits that it seems like it was just yesterday that the couple was inside the Thomas & Mack Center celebrating Cooper’s 2015 World Finals event victory. Cooper became the fourth rookie in PBR history to win the most prestigious title in Western sports – the PBR World Finals – after losing 24 pounds in a span two of months in 2015.

Davis embarked upon a rigorous diet/workout after being called “fat” by PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert and Ring of Honor inductee J.W. Hart on August 15, 2015 at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, PBR event.

The Jasper, Texas, native lived on a 1,200-calorie diet consisting of chicken, brown rice, broccoli and sautéed vegetables for two months, ran close to 20 miles a week and climbed aboard the rankest bucking bulls in the world that weighed up to seven times his size. Thanks to his workout regimen and diet plan, Cooper evolved from a borderline bull rider into one with world title aspirations. The chubbier Cooper thought he would “never” win a world title before his weight loss.

Cooper Davis in the locker room during the second round of the Kansas City Built Ford Tough series PBR. Photo by Andy Watson

“It happened here (winning the Finals). That is when it clicked I could do it,” Davis said. “Before that, I thought I would make the Finals and never be a World Champion contender. Now I don’t see a reason I couldn’t be this year, next year and the year after that if I keep doing that.”

Kaitlyn shook her head and let out a, “No way,” when asked if people honestly have processed just how hard Cooper had worked to not only lose the weight, but maintain his 138-pound size. It wasn’t always just a matter of Cooper going to the gym and eating healthy, she said with a big laugh.

“I would be like, ‘Cooper, lets PLEASE eat some pizza,” Kaitlyn said. “He would say, ‘No, we are not going to eat any pizza. I can’t. I have a World Championship to win.’

“If I made him eat pizza the 40 times I asked, I don’t know if we would be here today.”

Cooper credits a lot of his success to Kaitlyn.

“My wife has been there and helped me through all of this weight change and working out,” Cooper said. “Making sure I have done my part of the deal.”

He hopes one day his son can look back on his dad’s world title run and find inspiration for his own personal goals, whatever they will be.

“I am glad I got to share this with Mack,” Cooper said. “Maybe one day we can look back and see the transformation I had to go through. Maybe if he is having a tough time with something, he can say, ‘Well, my dad worked his butt off so maybe I just need to work a little harder.’”

Cooper Davis rides BMC Bucking Bulls/Jeff Robinson’s Bezerk for 87.75 during the first round of the Kansas City Built Ford Tough series PBR. Photo by Andy Watson

Cooper wasn’t even riding full time on the BFTS until February 2015. He has since increased his riding percentage by over 20 percent, won his first PBR World Championship gold buckle, three Built Ford Tough Series events, a 15/15 Bucking Battle and has earned over $1.6 million in 14 months since beginning his diet and workout regimen.

Davis is currently ranked fifth in the PBR world standings heading into this weekend’s Frontier Communication’s Iron Cowboy, presented by Kawasaki, at AT&T Stadium. The event begins at 5:50 p.m. CT and will be broadcast Sunday on CBS national television at noon ET.

“It is one of our biggest events all year and I think it is always harder to win your hometown event, per say,” Davis said. “It would be pretty special to win there.”

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