MMA Helps Stetson Lewis Stay Ready to Ride

Even though Stetson Lewis has been a bull rider most of his 21 years, there was a rough time in his life that led him away from rodeo and eventually into Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting. Now, Stetson has returned to his roots and the new sport he picked up is helping him stay at the top of his bull riding game.


“When I was riding in the PRCA I went through a rough phase of my life,” Stetson says. “I was sitting in the top 15 and winning Rookie of the Year but things started to go downhill. I had a lot of bad injuries – I broke my face, all the ribs on my left side, my left elbow ad tore my ACL. At the same time, my grandfather was passing away from esophagus cancer,” he explains.


Stetson’s mom, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, needed help taking care of her sick father so Stetson left college and the PRCA behind to help his family. “I kind of just stopped riding bulls. I went into Mixed Martial Arts and cage fighting and I didn’t have anything to do with riding bulls,” Stetson says.


But it wasn’t long before bull riding came calling again and, by that time, Stetson was ready to step back in the ring. “One day a buddy of mine called and asked if I wanted to go to a bull riding. I went and I ended up winning it. While we were there, a good friend of mine, Casey Bowman, was telling me about the CBR and some of the things the CBR had done for him. Wrangler Dunda, who’s another good friend of mine said the same things so I thought I’d give it a try,” Stetson says.


Now Stetson is back to riding bulls full-time, due in no small part to the checks he’s been pulling at CBR events. He captured his first CINCH CBR win earlier this year in Lufkin, Tex. and he credits his continued MMA training with keeping him at the top of his game this season.


“Training MMA has helped my riding. When you do this type of training it’s not just going into the gym and lifting weights. You use every muscle in your body and you get your cardio strong and healthy. Transitioning to different angles on an opponent helps your body stay loose and the fighting helps your reaction time get quicker,” Stetson explains.


MMA also helps Stetson prepare his mind for competition. “The mental game is very similar in fighting and bull riding because you go in against an opponent. You can’t be thinking, ‘This guy’s big’ or ‘This bull hurt my buddy last week’ when you’re out there. It helps keep my confidence up,” he says.


But the biggest benefit, Stetson says, is having a strong and healthy body. “I can bounce back from injury because my body’s healthier. I think every bull rider should train MMA because it will reduce injury and that’s important in this sport,” Stetson says.


While bull riding might be Stetson’s focus at the moment, he’s also busy preparing for a new challenge. Stetson and his wife, Catrina, are expecting their first child this fall. They are getting ready to welcome a baby boy so they could have a future CBR bull rider or MMA fighter on the way. Then again, maybe he’ll take after Dad and be both.