LAS VEGAS – Cooper Davis wheeled his 2015 World Finals bag around the meeting room inside the Thomas & Mack Center and began to go through his first Built Ford Tough World Finals rider check-in process.
Davis looked quite at home as he picked up his various sponsors gifts, official 2015 World Finals qualifier jacket and other fun items.
Quite frankly, Davis is pretty familiar with the Thomas & Mack Center and hasn’t found success hard to find in the home of UNLV’s Running Rebels.
“It is good to be back in the building,” he said. “I have come here before and had success before and I am ready to do it again.”
The Jasper, Texas, bull rider stormed onto the rodeo scene in 2013 when he went 4-for-10 to finish sixth at the National Finals Rodeo and sixth in the PRCA bull riding standings. He won Round 10 with an 84-point ride onPalace Station John Doe and was crowned the 2013 PRCA Rookie of the Year.
Davis understands the competition will be another notch this week in Las Vegas, but he believes that experience combined with his 22 events on the Built Ford Tough Series this year has him in a good position to succeed despite the fact he will be making his World Finals debut on Wednesday.
“I think it helps a lot being in the building before,” Davis said. “The last time I was here (I learned) coming here is a lot different than what you expect it to be. It is a small arena, but it feels so big. It is cool being on that big of a platform. You notice it and you can tell coming here there is a lot on the line and it is what everybody works for. I am just happy to be here.”
Davis made his PBR debut in Las Vegas in May at the outdoor Last Cowboy Standing. He went 1-for2, including an 87.5-point ride on Heavy Dose, in the second PBR Major of his career.
The 21-year-old, who was a brand new father to his son, Mackston, just three days earlier, didn’t feel any distractions during his brief stint in Vegas this past May other than missing his newborn son.
This week, Davis has his son and fiancée, Kaitlyn Elliott, with him in Vegas.
“Having to be away from them would be harder than having them here,” Davis said. “Having them here and having her to be around with me is huge.”
Kaitlyn added, “He is an awesome dad. I told him we didn’t have to take Mack here. We are going to be here for nine days. He said he didn’t want to even be away from him for 30 minutes.”
Kaitlyn believes Davis has an added-sense of focus since becoming a first-time father in May.
While he was always super committed to the sport of bull riding, she agreed that it is different for Davis with a son at home who looks up to him.
“Whenever you have someone looking up to you it makes a bigger difference in your heart and drive,” she said. “You have something to prove not only to yourself, but to your children. He has always been super committed, but it is a different dedication for sure.”
If not for Kaique Pacheco’s stellar rookie season, Davis would be at the top of the totem pole for the Rookie of the Year title.
The No. 16 ranked bull rider has been one of the other impressive riders in a class that also features No. 18 Mason Lowe.
Davis really took the next step in his career once PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert and 2002 World Finals event winner J.W. Hart convinced him to lose some weight during the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Built Ford Tough Series event.
He is now down 24 pounds to 144 pounds, and he has gone 8-for-18 (44.44 percent) on the BFTS since beginning a rigid 1,200 calories per day diet of chicken, brown rice, broccoli and sautéed vegetables.
Davis’ riding percentage is almost 10 points higher than his season average (34.48 percent) since his diet change. Prior to the change, he had been 12-for-40 (30 percent) on the BFTS.
He decided a week ago to stop limiting himself to 1,200 calories and believes he is at the exact weight he he needs to be at to compete at his best.
“I don’t need to lose anymore and am not trying to,” Davis said. “I am eating clean, but I am not limiting myself to 1,200 calories like I was. I am still running and working out.”
The change is apparent too with Davis’ jeans no longer fitting him and his leaner appearance on Monday night.
Davis added, “I am tiny. My pants don’t fit anymore and I need to go shopping for a new wardrobe. That is all part of it. It makes you better and that is why I did it.”
Kaitlyn – the master chef behind his diet – was impressed with Davis’ dedication toward losing some weight.
Her mother, Dana, has a background in personal training and Kaitlyn has tried to instill the values her mom taught her to Cooper.
“I am really proud of him because he worked really hard for this,” she said. “He has been super committed.”
Davis knows he couldn’t have done it without Kaitlyn.
“She has been a big part of this,” he said. “She helps a lot. She does meal prep for me. She goes to the gym with me and Mack, he will go sit at the gym and roll around.”
While he knows he will unlikely be able to catch Pacheco for the Rookie of the Year title, he still hopes to make his first World Finals a memorable one like he did at the NFR in 2013.
Davis has drawn Buck Autism (2-2, BFTS) for Round 1 on Wednesday.
“Go win,” Davis said. “Since I started this diet, my goal wasn’t to go win the event the next week and have expectations. It was to get to the Finals and be in the shape that I want to be in.
“I feel like I now am in the best shape I can be to win.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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