Childhood Friends Rise to Elite Bull Riders

If you close your eyes during the conversation, it would be easy to mistake Reese Cates and Chase Outlaw for brothers. They share life stories that they tell in the same way, they tell the same jokes, and they have an aligned goal while growing up to reach the elite level in their favorite sport, bull riding.

Cates and Outlaw met at a young age around the youth rodeo circuit in South Arkansas.

“We started out riding in junior rodeos together at a young age,” Outlaw tells us. “We didn’t have a normal lifestyle growing up, on weekends we were not hanging out with our friends. Every weekend since I was 5 I would play football on Friday then head to a bull ride. Reese and I became like brothers during that time.”


The friendship would turn into a brotherhood, frequently in talking they both refer to each other as family. While riding and competing together the two had one goal, to become a championship bull rider.

“We both had the same dream and vision, to become a world champion bull rider,” Cates says. “Now we have both worked hard to get there and it is just another mile marker that I know we will reach.”

Both riders rose up through the high school, college and amature ranks. Eventually making it to the Built Ford Tough Series that is part of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders Association). The Built Ford Tough series represents the elite of bull riding, and only invites the top 35 riders in the world.

Cates, a little older than Outlaw, the series in 2008. He earned rookie of the year and qualified for the world finals. Outlaw joined the series a few years later in 2012, collecting his first win in only his third event.

“It was something that I couldn’t wait for. It was something that I dreamed about since I was a little kid,” Cates says. “All the amateur events were just stepping stones.”

Outlaw quickly shares the same belief that this what they were meant to do, and they both feel like a championship for both of them is just a matter of time.

The professionalism of bull riding as a sport has grown since both started riding. Cates’ history with the sport stretches back generations, both his father and grandfather were bull riders, and his mother was a barrel race athlete. As the quality of the sport has grown, so has the level of athletes.

“It is the NFL of bull riding. There are guys from all over the world in the Built Ford Tough series,” Cates says. “The guys who are competition now are professional athletes. We train all week and we travel during the week. We have to be responsible individuals. We are not a bunch of rednecks hanging on to an animal for 8 seconds.”

“The athletes are close knit, we really are not competing against each other, rather we compete against ourselves and the bulls,” Outlaw adds. “We are dealing with the best bulls in the world. They bread them like race horses from the Kentucky Derby. At the PBR level the bulls are proven and bread with high blood lines.”

Both are quick to point out the extreme quality and attention the animals receive. The animals are trained and tended to like the best thoroughbred horses.

For the first time since 2002 the Built Ford Tough series comes to Little Rock, which is something both are excited about.

To be able to compete at one of the events in Little Rock is amazing,” Cates says. “There are guys who never have the opportunity to compete in front of a hometown crowd.”

Outlaw says he is disappointed to miss the event, but is hoping for the series to return to the state next year as long as ticket sales are high. Outlaw is currently out with an injury, but hopes to cheer Cates on this Saturday and Sunday in Verizon Arena. It is that support that each other share of one another that makes each other successful.

It is really fun to have that one person in your corner who has been giving you support from the very beginning,” Cates says. “No matter how bright the lights or how much the money, I have a guy who knows where I came from and how hard I have worked.”

If you would like to see Cates ride along with the 34 of the world’s best, fill out this form and we will draw for 2 tickets to PBR’s Built Ford Tough series this weekend between now and 5 p.m. tomorrow. Winner will be notified later that night.


Childhood Friends Rise to Elite Bull Riders