A look inside freestyle bullfighting

By Tera Roberson - Special Projects Producer, Owen Conflenti - Anchor

HOUSTON - It's an extreme sport that pits a cowboy against a raging bull.

“You got a bull that weighs 1,200 to 1,300 pounds. They come from Spain. They hate man. They don't even like their selves,” said Bo Davis.

For nearly a minute, bullfighters enter the arena floor for hits, flips and death-defying misses in the sport known as freestyle bullfighting.

“These are animals that are bred to buck. They love to buck and you've gotta be really quick and agile to be able to get this pulled off right,” Davis said.

Davis is a rodeo event coordinator.

He said the men spend hours training for what amounts to less than a minute in the arena.

“If you don't do good, you usually do really bad and get hurt. So, it's usually a trip to the hospital if you're not good enough,” he said.

So why would anyone willingly pull these kinds of stunts in front of a bull?

Cade Gibson, 20, said it's about the sport, and it’s just a way of life.

“We're bringing the athletic part of fighting bulls into play. I grew up rodeoing, following rodeo with my dad,” said Cade.

“Once I found out I could fight bulls for a living, and make money at it, it took me to a whole 'nother level because I could put in my athletic background from playing football and baseball and be able to use that in the arena.”

From the second the chute opens, these cowboys are target No. 1.

Bullfighter Alex McWilliams said, “When you go out in that arena, you completely clear your mind. No one watching. Nothing. It's just you and your animal and you gotta do what you gotta do against him, you know?”

We spent the evening with four members of Shorty Gorham's American Freestyle Bullfighting for a behind-the-scenes look at their jobs.

Gorham is credited with a resurgence of bullfighting, adding a new twist.

“Shorty -- he's opened up a lot of doors for a lot of cowboys to come out here and showcase themselves in a way that you can't really do in a typical rodeo,” Seth Wilson said.

On this night, Shorty's members are in Fredericksburg.

The town west of Austin is probably better known for its picturesque town square and its wineries, but on this night, it’s all about the rodeo.

Davis said, “Who's got the best talent to be able to survive for 45 seconds with an animal that really wants to hurt you, and you can't touch him?”

Freestyle is much different than Spanish bullfighting, in which the bulls are killed at the end.

In Freestyle, the animals are worth as much as a $100,000, and they go home after the fight.

“They're well taken care of. We make sure everything is set up back here where they can't get hurt. Nobody else gets hurt,” said J.D. Nix, the stock contractor who provides the bulls for the event.

Although they are competing with one another, the four men in the tournament tonight have the same goal: (to) never let the bull win and to always have each other’s backs.

Besides a trophy and recognition, the men usually compete for a cash prize, sometimes as little as $1,000, but as the popularity of freestyle grows, so will the prize money. Shorty Gorham's American Bullfighters are coming to Houston in November.

For more information on the event, click here.

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