Former marine turned bareback rider fighting for championship at International Finals Rodeo

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The top 15 cowboys and cowgirls will go head-to-head for the title of World Champion in eight different events at the International Finals Rodeo held at the State Fair Park Arena.

One of the bareback riders, a former U.S. marine, has quite the survival story.

The cowboy from Illinois found his passion for riding while he was in the military.

For Mike Sumner, it’s all about the competition.

"You versus a wild animal," said Bareback Rider Mike Sumner. “Once you climb on to that bucking horse, you climb over that chute, it all goes away. Your mind's focused on the job, your adrenaline kicking almost 100 miles per hour, almost like a drag racer getting ready to punch the pedal.”

Sumner is a third-time bareback rider qualifier at the International Finals Rodeo.

He is a former U.S. marine and a Purple Heart recipient.

It was during his first deployment in Iraq when he survived an attack.

"My humvee just struck a landmine and sent it flying and sent a lot of us to the hospital," said Sumner.

He was in a coma for days, left with brain injuries.

Once he healed, he continued to serve.

That's when the daredevil found his passion for riding horses.

"I was working on a horse ranch outside of town just to get away from the rigors of the military, as an escape, as you could say," said Sumner.

What started as fun turned into a career.

"Next thing I know is some guys are hauling me to these rodeos and said, 'I bet you won't get on,' so I got on, got beat up and said, you know, 'I can do this,'" said Sumner.

From fighting for our country to now one of the top cowboys in the world, Sumner is fighting for a championship in bareback riding.

"The atmosphere is here. The crowd is electric here. It's the biggest stage for the IPRA (International Professional Rodeo Association) that there could ever be," said Sumner.

The International Finals Rodeo starts Friday and runs through Sunday.

Click here for a full schedule of events.