BANGOR, Maine — Devin Powell was back at the scene of the second-most important fight of his mixed martial arts career Saturday night.
Instead of competing inside the cage at the Cross Insurance Center’s main ballroom — as he did in August 2016 while earning a Ultimate Fighting Championship contract with his performance at a “Dana White: Lookin’ For A Fight” show — Powell was offering encouragement as two of his MMA students scored victories during a New England Fights promotion.
“We don’t have a ton of guys, but we have a bunch who want to fight who are close to getting their first fights, so it’s exciting,” said Powell, who lives in Wells and owns Nostos MMA in Somersworth, New Hampshire.
Powell has parlayed his high-energy brand of fighting into a whirlwind early run in the UFC, including his first win with the world’s top MMA promotion July 28 when he scored a first-round, technical-knockout victory over Alvaro Herrera in Calgary, Alberta.
He had lost his first two UFC fights.
“I went in there knowing I had to pull the trigger,” said Powell, a 30-year-old graduate of Marshwood High School in South Berwick. “[UFC veteran and training partner] Joe Lauzon pretty much said the biggest thing was I had to be more aggressive, had to be more mean, and that’s what we went out to do.”
That victory provided a measure of security for Powell, who had one more fight left on his original UFC contract. Instead, the 6-foot, 155-pound lightweight was awarded a new four-fight contract that is scheduled to commence with a Nov. 17 bout against Peruvian Claudio Puelles on a UFC Fight Night card in Argentina.
“I can still get cut with a bad performance, but it looks a lot better than finishing a contract out,” he said. “Free agency is never good for UFC fighters.”
Powell (9-3) won the New England Fights lightweight title before overcoming a broken nose and torn knee ligament to score a first-round win over Jon Lemke during the 2016 show in Bangor co-promoted by NEF and White, the longtime UFC president who graduated from Hermon High School and maintains a residence in Levant.
White soon signed Powell to a UFC contract, but when Powell lost by unanimous decision to Drakkar Klose in January 2017 and by split decision to Darrell Horcher five months later, his future in MMA’s major leagues was in jeopardy — despite the fact those two foes have a combined 22-4-1 record.
“I didn’t know if I would get another fight,” Powell said. “It was 13 months before I did get a fight, and after the first three or four months we were told that they didn’t know if I could get another fight, and I might have to go back to the local leagues.”
Powell turned to social media to make his case and help build his fan base.
“You’ve got to be aggressive, and you’ve got to stay right on them,” he said. “I constantly tagged them, I constantly would do posts saying ‘Hey Dana White, hey [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby, UFC give me my next fight.’”
Powell also believes he benefited from the publicity he received from a unique injury, a ruptured testicle, he suffered while training with Lauzon in February.
“I got a lot of attention from Barstool Sports and TMZ,” Powell said. “I think it helped me [get a fight]. Being on the Jim Rome [radio] show, the UFC guys love that, and I think it all helped. It was an awful experience but was almost like it was better thing to happen than breaking my arm because nobody’s going to care because that happens to fighters all the time.”
Powell recuperated from the subsequent surgery and eventually took the Herrera fight on 30 days’ notice. He made the most of that opportunity, using two devastating left kicks to the back to prompt the bout’s stoppage at 1:52 of the first round.
Powell earned $24,000 ($12,000 to fight, $12,000 to win) for the first victory at the top level of his chosen sport.
“Nothing can describe it,” he said. “Just proving myself right — my whole team, my whole family, and everybody who believes in me — I got it done for them. And all the people who doubt me and want to see me fail because they’re not in my position, it feels good to have them have to watch me [win].”
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