UFC Calgary: Devin Powell Hoping Third Time’s the Charm

Devin Powell UFC
Devin Powell Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Devin Powell hasn’t fought in a year, because he refused to let go of his UFC dream. At UFC Calgary, he’ll get another chance to prove why he’s in the world’s premiere MMA promotion.

As the UFC rolls into Calgary for the first time since 2012, lightweight Devin Powell will finally step into the octagon for the third time. It’s his first trip to the cage in over a year. Yet where other fighters might have been shown the door, Powell’s patience, persistence, and willingness to step up on short notice finally paid off.

His third outing in the UFC has been a long time coming, and at UFC Calgary, the New England area fighter and gym owner (Nostos MMA in New Hampshire) intends to show exactly what he can bring to the table. We caught up with Powell earlier this week, who told us about how the bout came to be, his horrific injury rolling with Joe Lauzon, and more.

“I had less than thirty days,” Devin Powell told us on his lead time for UFC Calgary. He’s still looking for that elusive first UFC win. Opposite him at the milestone event — the Calgary card happens to be UFC on FOX 30 — will be Álvaro Herrera. The pair open up the evening’s festivities.

“What I kind of gather, he wanted to fight on this card, and they just didn’t have someone for him,” he told us. Then came a call from Powell’s management. Which of course came with impeccable timing. “My plan was to take my wife out that night, to celebrate her most recent fight,” Powell said of the day he got the news.

Without knowing anything about Herrera, Powel’s answer was simple: “I’m in.”

“I just couldn’t look at my family or myself in the mirror if I didn’t give everything I could to get at least that third shot.”

And those dinner plans? “The plan was to take her out because we never get to go out. So I finish training a little bit early, I take her out so we can sit in Hampton Beach at a nice restaurant where we can see the fireworks that they do,” Powell recalled. “I already had champagne out, and the goal was to celebrate a long hard fight camp for her.”

“The second the fireworks started, we toasted, I said ‘this is to a hard fight camp, celebrating that, and to UFC Calgary.'” A bit of a surprise for his wife, who also trains with her husband.

Of course, any short notice fight comes with its share of hurdles. “I was probably about 183 when I got offered the fight,” Powell told us. At the beginning of this week he was in the 160s.

“I wish they would do same day weigh-ins,” he said of the weight-cutting issue, which has been in the news more and more of late. “I wish I could do the weigh-ins the same day as the fight, hit 170, which would still be pretty small for me, but do hydration tests and all that stuff and make sure you’re actually healthy.”

Powell expects to be about 174 when he steps in the cage Saturday after re-hydrating. “People are crying for the 65 division,” he said, but suggested that another division would only “be another problem, where people still cut the same amount of weight.” Just moving the line, in essence.

When the weight cut is done and Devin Powell gets in the octagon, it will be the culmination of nearly a year of sticking to his guns and overcoming a freak injury as well.

After a close split decision loss to Darryl Horcher at UFC Fight Night 112 last year, things looked bleak. “I thought there was no way I was going to get that third crack,” he said of the situation. The UFC told Powell they weren’t sure if they could find him another fight, and suggested he might have to go back to the regional scene.

That led Powell to reach out directly to matchmaker Sean Shelby. “I don’t care if you shelve me for a year, if you give me a short notice fight, I’ll take anything, just don’t cut me,” he recalled saying. “Give me another shot, whenever it is, I’ll be ready.”

It was a risk Powell felt he had to take. “I just couldn’t look at my family or myself in the mirror if I didn’t give everything I could to get at least that third shot.”

The gamble paid off. Other fighters were cut. Powell wasn’t. He continued to have access to the Performance Institute, and was granted tickets to events. Powell kept his name out there on social media, offering to step in for fighters when opponents fell through. And through persistence, the call finally came.

During his time off, he’d offered to step into fights against a number of fighters, including Marcin Held, but none came to be. Then earlier this year, he suffered a horrific accident while training in jiu-jitsu with Joe Lauzon: a ruptured testicle.

“I didn’t think that I’d ever have something like this happen, after going ten years without wearing a cup whenever I’m doing jiu-jitsu,” Powell admitted. “But sure enough, after ten years, going with someone as savage as Joe Lauzon — who’s obviously an aggressive grappler — he was trying to pass my guard and he tried to knee cut, he brought his knee up and tried to slide through. Instead of sliding through, it went straight in, and it basically sandwiched my testicle against my pubic bone and exploded it, so the contents on the inside went to the outside.”

If it’s painful to read, imagine what Powell himself was going through. Not only that, he waited a day and a half in excruciating pain, thinking he was “being a baby.” After reaching out on social media about the condition he was in and getting a flood of advice telling him to see a doctor, he did. An ultrasound (with a rather reluctant ultrasound tech) led to immediate surgery. Permanent stitches. But incredibly, he was back in the gym a couple of days later. A month later, he was training all out.

Now back in the swing of things, Powell will be facing a fighter in Herrera who has never gone the distance, win or lose. That’s something he’d like to exploit. “I definitely would like to see how he holds up,” he said. “I’ve seen in his fights where it seems like he can slow down a bit. He’s going to come out on all cylinders, just gotta keep my hands up and fight smart.”

That means one of Powell’s goals is to see what his opponent can (or can’t) do in fifteen minutes. Not that he isn’t looking to finish. “I mean, the goal isn’t to go fifteen minutes, my goal is to win as quick as possible,” he allowed. “But I think that someone that’s never been that far, it’s definitely a good goal to try to push him. If I don’t get the finish before, just keep grinding him.”

As for fighting outside the U.S. for the first time? “Canada’s just a whole new excitement. The fact that I get to fight in a whole other country for the biggest league in the world.” There’ll be a trip to Banff after the bout with his wife. Hopefully in celebration of that first UFC win.

UFC Calgary (UFC on FOX 30) takes place this Saturday, July 28 at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. The main card airs on FOX after prelims on Fight Pass and FS1 (CTV2/TSN2 in Canada)