Kevin Kellerman

It was love at first fight. Kevin Kellerman was hooked on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) from his first training session, and doesn’t plan on stopping until he’s had a successful pro career. It’s a lofty goal for any 21 year old, but while Kevin fights his way to the top, he’s also dealing with Type 1 diabetes. That’s a battle that almost took him out of the ring, until he was convinced to try an insulin pump.

Originally from Maple Ridge, BC, Kevin moved to Kelowna with his family in his early teens. That’s where fighting became an interest—Kevin and other willing participants would gather in a friend’s backyard to throw punches. At that point, it was just a rough hobby for bragging rights.

“I got tired of losing, so I found a martial arts gym in town and started training,” says Kevin. “As soon as I started training, I became obsessed with fighting. I loved it.”

It didn’t take long for MMA to occupy most of Kevin’s time. At school, he’d think about it. On the bus, he’d watch fight videos on his phone. He would arrive to training sessions half an hour early, keen to start. And at home, he was drawn to the computer where he’d research MMA and watch more videos.

“MMA is a skill and an art form. We don’t just close our eyes and swing punches at each other. Once you learn the skills, you can be creative, develop your own style and improve your technique. It’s a way for me to be creative and express my competitive nature.”

Although fighting isn’t for the faint of heart, Kevin says MMA is great for self-confidence. It’s also a good workout, and the competitiveness keeps him coming back for more.

In his early days, he was one of the youngest in his group class, but Kevin was quick to develop and keen to progress. His first amateur MMA fight was in February 2013, and he won his first amateur title in September 2015. June 2016 marked his first professional MMA fight.

“That was a big milestone. In between each fight, I would work hard to progress, to keep moving and improving. I’m always taking steps toward my next goal,” he says. Determination is obvious in his voice. “The ultimate goal is to make a living as a professional athlete.”

In addition to training, the road to becoming a professional athlete means superior overall health. Kevin was making healthy, conscious choices when it came to eating, sleeping and exercising. But keeping his blood glucose levels in range was an ongoing challenge.

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 3, Kevin was on multiple daily injections of insulin before starting on an insulin pump in 2016.

“I was having a really hard time controlling my blood glucose levels. I was trying—using a log book and looking for trends—but diabetes was so hard to deal with and I wanted to focus on training. I was putting so much work into my diabetes and getting nothing back.”

Training at least three hours every evening was causing frequent and unexpected lows.

“Lows are scary and I had a lot of anxiety about my glucose levels dropping. I was testing constantly, but with all the exercise I was doing, there was a lot of guesswork and uncertainty.”

To avoid lows during training and competitions, Kevin would intentionally keep his glucose levels high, often resulting in ketones by the end of the night. It was taking a toll on his energy and his performance. So when Kevin started seeing a new endocrinologist, she recommended he start using an insulin pump.

“The idea didn’t sit right with me at first. Being attached to something was a mental barrier.” But knowing what he knows now, he cannot imagine going back to injections.

“My glucose levels are way better. I have so much more energy. I sleep better. I put on more muscle. My athletic performance has improved 100%.I feel like a new person on the training mat.”

Kevin remembers his last fight before starting on the pump. His blood glucose levels reached 26 mmol/L, leaving him tired and suffering from ketoacidosis.

“I lost a fight to someone I should have smoked, because I wasn’t treating my diabetes properly. I realized that if I really wanted to be a professional athlete, something had to change. I needed to quit fighting or get an insulin pump.”

The next day, he started the process of ordering an Animas® Vibe® insulin pump and CGM system. That was in February 2016, and Kevin says the change has improved every aspect of his life.

“My glucose levels are way better. I have so much more energy. I sleep better. I put on more muscle. My athletic performance has improved 100%. I feel like a new person on the training mat.”

Along with the pump, Kevin started using the Vibe’s integrated Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), and uses diasend® software to analyze his pump and CGM readings.

“I’m a very visual person, so diasend keeps me motivated and helps me to set goals and measure my progress. I feel more confident and have more freedom now that I have the right tools to manage diabetes.”

With his current glucose reading and trends now available at the press of a button, Kevin doesn’t live in fear of his levels dropping. He says CGM has taken the guesswork out of diabetes.

Now, he can focus on training, and the positive aspects of living with diabetes.

“Diabetes has made me more disciplined. Especially when it comes to nutrition. With diabetes, there are a lot more consequences if I don’ t eat healthy, stay in shape and really take care of myself. It keeps me focused.”

As MMA gains popularity as a sport, he hopes to use his athletic publicity as a platform to bring more attention to diabetes.

“I’d like to advocate for other people with diabetes, and for better coverage of diabetes supplies like insulin pumps and CGM. These tools have made such a difference in my life, enabling me to stay healthy and manage my diabetes while pursuing a career as a professional athlete.”