Photo by Jeff Mozey, courtesy of Cody Galloway

Cody Galloway is defying the odds. 

The amateur MMA fighter in the Minneapolis area – who competes in a form of mixed martial arts called Pankration – has a defibrillator implanted in his chest. He takes heart medication. He’s had a pacemaker for years. 

“I’m a pretty healthy guy,” Galloway told Outsports recently. “It’s manageable. But it is real.”

It wasn’t always that way. In 2013, a “crazy life incident happened to me and I developed heart failure,” he said. Working through his new medical condition, he was still dealing with other issues in his life that complicated a focus on his health.

Through it all, fighting has been an improbable centering activity that has kept him upright and, today, thriving.

“My life had been chaotic until I was 25,” he remembered of his younger years. “So for the longest time, fighting was the only time I had control of in my life. So I found a lot of peace and solace. It gave me focus.”

Today, after some tumultuous years, Galloway is an entrepeneur, owning real estate companies. That seemed impossible not long ago.

“None of that would have materialized without learning from mixed martial arts.”

His sport of pankration is a form of mixed martial arts with one glaring exception: No punches to the head are allowed. A few weeks ago, in Superior, the northwestern-most city in Wisconsin, Galloway won the 170-pound Pankration Championship of Inner Strength MMA Promotions. Now with a record of 2-1, he is a champion.

Cody Galloway with his belt
Cody Galloway wins a championship belt in the MMA sport of Pankration, continuing to do what he loves. Photo courtesy of Cody Galloway | Photo courtesy of Cody Galloway

He’s also a champion who happens to be gay, another trailblazer and role model for the community without even realizing it.

He met his husband at a restaurant nine years ago. Galloway was smitten.

“I kind of Facebook-stalked him,” he said. “He was a real estate agent at the time, so he thought I was trying to buy a house. But I told him, ‘maybe on the second date.’”

His husband may be his biggest fan, but he also worries every time Galloway steps into a fight.

“He supports it, but he doesn’t love it,” Gallow said. “I think he holds his breath every time. He’s my biggest fan. He loves watching UFC.

“But one of the very first matches he saw of me, I did snap my leg in half. So that probably wasn’t a good start to it.”

With his heart conditions, he has to be thoughtful and introspective.

“It’s a lot of listening to my body. During the workouts, there are some times I feel like I’m dying to the point of exhaustion. I have to watch it but I think I have a good medical team.”

That medical team recently cleared him to pursue his dream: a spot representing the United States in competition. 

“Now just got cleared and my doctor just cleared me to compete with Team USA – Pankration fingers crossed we get on the team,” he wrote on Instagram.

Unfortunately, the medical clearance came after the recent Team USA trials. Still, there’s hope: He’s been in touch with team organizers, now that he does in fact have the medical clearance. He’s still hoping to find a spot on the team.

If not, he’ll take a fight to defend his championship this August. Either way, he’s ready to continue proving that even someone with heart failure can, with a good medical team and a lot of dedication to their health, compete in the sport they love.

You can follow Cody Galloway on Instagram and LinkedIn.