BY KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Becoming a World Champion was more than a dream for Cade Gibson.
It was a goal.
And a day after winning Shorty Gorham’s American Freestyle Bullfighting’s first world title, Gibson cannot seem to stop looking at his gold buckle.
“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” Gibson said. “It’s been a long road.”
He added, “It’s sitting in my girlfriend’s lap and we’re just looking at it. It’s pretty crazy just to be holding that piece of hardware and it says World Champion on it.”
It damn sure does.
Gibson finished second at this weekend’s AFB event in Uvalde, Texas, but it was enough to propel him to claiming the 2018 World Championship. With four of the best freestyle bullfighters – Gibson, Evan Allard, Alex McWilliams and event-winner Sage Seay – advancing to the final round, it was a close outcome that was anything but certain.
“I knew it was going to be tight regardless,” Gibson said. “It was either show out or shut up.”
Allard was the final out of the round and it was not until they finally announced his score that Gibson realized, though his 85 points did not win the event, he had done enough to win the world title.
“When they announced (Allard’s) score, I heard Clint Adkins say, ‘That means Cade Gibson is your 2018 World Champion,’” recalled Gibson. “It hit me, it was like, ‘Holy crap.’”
He celebrated with his fellow bullfighters.
Friends and family were there too.
“I absolutely shed some tears last night,” said Gibson, of the moment he shared with his father, Curtis Gibson. “I tried to hold it in and, I guess, play the tough role, but it seemed like the trigger got pulled and the floodgates were open for a second.”
His father and stepmother were there.
His girlfriend was with him too.
Even classmates from elementary school reached out.
“It’s been a trip down memory lane,” Gibson said.
Speaking of memories, last year’s Uvalde event was Gibson’s first AFB event.
Much like this year, last year he won the opening round but then he got “the absolute snot hooked out of him” in Round 2. It was that outcome that led Gibson to eventually quit his job a week before the Deadwood, South Dakota, event and dedicate himself to the sport fulltime.
After winning Round 1 on Thursday night, Gibson said, “I had to chuckle. I couldn’t help but remember the second-round last year.
“I’m not going to lie it was playing in my mind.”
Again Round 2 was a close call.
He was of the last of seven bullfighters to go and afterward there was a moment (or two) he did not think he made it back to the short round. After AFB officials went through the judges’ sheets and double-checked their scores, Gibson escaped, err, advanced with an 82.5-point effort to cap an already special day.
He woke up Friday morning to a text message from veteran bullfighter Frank Newsom, who notified Gibson that he had been approved for his PBR bullfighter card. Gibson was also approved for a PRCA permit last month and beginning this summer, he will now add cowboy protection to an already busy freestyle schedule.
“It’s been one heck of a weekend,” said Gibson, whose success was a reminder of why he gets up in the morning and goes to the gym to work out and train every day.
He shares a place with fellow bullfighter Colt Carlisle, and they plan to continue pushing each other at the gym. In fact, he’s put a good crew together with another top-ranked AFB bullfighter, Alex McWilliams, who hops in the truck and rides along to AFB events with them.
It hasn’t even been 24 hours, but Gibson admits he’s poised and yet pressured to win a second AFB world title, in Las Vegas, this coming November.
“Just seeing what that gold buckle looks like,” Gibson said, “if it doesn’t make you crave it more, I don’t know what else will. I’m hungry – feeling healthy, feeling good – and just ready to get underway.”