The fight business isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a tough game. No one knows that better than UFC lightweight Devin Powell, but in spite of this, there may not be a more positive person on the planet than the native of South Berwick, Maine, who faces Jesus Pinedo on this weekend’s UFC Argentina card.
“I’ve got a healthy family, a beautiful little camp on a pond in Maine, a beautiful six-year-old daughter, I got a baby pig that sleeps in bed with me (Laughs), I’m in the UFC, I get to fight in Argentina, and even without the UFC I have a lot of reasons to be happy with my family and running a successful mixed martial arts gym,” said Powell. “I’ve got all the support in the world, so I try not to let the things that normally would get people down break me.”
An unexpected snow storm, a traffic jam, not enough caramel in their latte, these are the things that people usually go through that cause them to believe the sky is falling. Powell went through a little (okay, a lot) more to make it to Buenos Aires this week.
Start with the beginning of 2018. After being discovered on Dana White’s Lookin’ for a Fight series in August 2016, Powell made his UFC debut in 2017 and proceeded to lose his first two bouts via decision to Drakkar Klose and Darrell Horcher. As he waited for the call for fight three, he suffered a horrific injury (a ruptured testicle) during grappling practice in February, sidelining him further. He finally got his fight in July, beating Alvaro Herrera, but even in the camp for this fight, a flood hit his gym pretty hard.
But he hasn’t stopped looking ahead.
"I was given a good life and I want to continue to have a good life and give it to myself and give it to my family and tell everybody that if you work hard, you can do stuff that nobody would ever expect of you.”
“My fight shirt for this fight is a phoenix rising out of the ashes,” said Powell, who has been mixing up his work in the basement of his gym with work around the New England area, even with Joe Lauzon and his squad in Massachusetts.
“There are so many people in far worse positions than me,” he said. “Little things like this are just things you’ve gotta deal with on the fly. If I’m negative about it, it’s just gonna make everything worse. I’m alive. You’ve got to make the best of it every single day.”
So the million dollar question has to be, where does this attitude come from?
“I grew up with a great family, I never had any of those hardships,” said the 30-year-old. “My mom and dad have been together my whole life, they gave me everything I wanted and they’ve supported me in every decision I made. So I gotta pay it back. I don’t have this angst, I don’t have this ‘woe is me’ attitude. I was given a good life and I want to continue to have a good life and give it to myself and give it to my family and tell everybody that if you work hard, you can do stuff that nobody would ever expect of you.”
Powell never expected this growing up in Maine. He was gonna be a rock and roll star. Then, there were some twists and turns that led him here, even though he still picks up the guitar now and then.
“I’m an unathletic kid who loved playing music in a band,” he laughs. “I finished high school, tried college and it wasn’t for me. I hated it. I found a job at a passport center and I hated doing that every day, but I was paying my bills. Then I started doing martial arts after watching the WEC. I had watched Carlos Condit and Urijah Faber and Mike Brown kill it and I decided I wanted to do something in front of a crowd again like I did when I was playing music in high school. I wanted to feel alive again. I felt like I was the walking dead at the passport center. And this changed me.”
That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. But as Powell has found out, it’s all about perspective.
“This sport has the highest highs and the lowest lows,” he said. “I’ve cried many a time out back in locker rooms with losses with wins. It’s an emotional sport. But you’ve got to stay happy even if you don’t have the best performance. You’ve got a lot of people that still believe in you and still care about you. Life is bigger than just the fight.”
It didn’t seem like it when he stopped Herrera for his first UFC win. On that night in Calgary, it appeared that for Powell, that fight was as big as anything in life. He won’t deny it.
“There was no better feeling than that.”
Now it’s time to chase that feeling again on Saturday. He can’t wait.
“I put in the work and I’m ready for the rewards.”