Maine native and Professional Mixed Martial Artist Devin Powell wears his story on his skin as he competes amongst the best MMA fighters in the world.
Travis Lizotte “Full Contact Writer”
South Berwick, Maine’s Devin Powell (10-4) has been a staple on the New England MMA scene across his ten year career in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. The former New England Fights Lightweight Champion and veteran of four fights at the sports pinnacle with the UFC, (1-3, 1 win by Knockout) is just as well known for his accolades outside of the cage as he is for accomplishments inside of it. Powell and his wife Carol Linn Powell took over the reigns at their Somersworth, New Hampshire gym; Nostos MMA and Conditioning Facility six years ago this June. Since their takeover the Powells have established one of the premier MMA training facilities on the New Hampshire seacoast and have gone to many lengths to bring the martial arts into many lives; especially the lives of local youths. The kids programs at Nostos MMA account for a major part of their curriculum, and though Devin has accomplished more than most could ever dream of inside the cage, perhaps Devin’s greatest accomplishment is being called “Coach.”
Powell signed with Bellator MMA in 2019 after 11 months away from competition to heal some nagging injuries. Devin notched his 10th professional victory at Bellator 232 in October with a mind numbing mounted guillotine finish of New York’s Marcus “The Blueprint” Surin (6-2) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Anyone who has followed Powell’s career has likely noticed that along with collecting wins inside the cage, Devin has acquired quite the collection of ink along the way. With his sponsor Dan Kelley, owner and founder of Skull & Snake Tattoo Studio and Art Gallery in North Berwick, Maine, behind the machine on his recent pieces, Powell wears some of the most eclectic artwork in all of New England MMA. Steve Domenico from The Room Podcast and NewEnglandMMA.org caught up with Powell to see what he is doing to help his gym survive the Covid-19 crisis, what we can expect from his career moving forward, and the stories behind that gnarly ink.
Powell (Right) faces off with Marcus Surin during weigh ins, ahead of their October 2019 bout at Bellator 232.
NEMMA: Hey Devin before we start talking about some of your ink, how are you keeping yourself busy through this pandemic?
Devin: The gym has been closed for over two months now, so things have been very crazy. I’ve been training about six days a week still, when I’m not training I’m out on the pond I live on in Wells, Maine and I’ve been doing a lot biking. Yesterday I went on a 26 mile bike ride with a solid work out in the middle of it as well. So I’m doing my best to stay active following my knee surgery; guitar, movies and twisted metal have also helped keep me grounded on occasion as well.
NEMMA: It’s been a couple months since gyms were forced to close back in March, what’s your outlook on local gyms opening in the future, including your gym (Nostos MMA), and how do you plan on getting back on track?
Devin: The biggest thing is be ready for the unknown. All we can do is keep everything as clean as possible and be ready to follow all the guidelines given to us from the state. We will definitely get through this and be back to training. I’m seeing giant gyms like American Top Team all back on the mats so I think we are about to see the light.
NEMMA: You are sponsored by “Skull and Snake Tattoo and Art Gallery,” a local tattoo business in your area, how did you hook up Dan and his crew?
Devin: Dan (Kelley) is one of those guys that I’ve known for a long time, through other things outside of tattooing and martial arts. We both were big into music and guitar growing up and we had similar friends. We also went to High Schools that were close in proximity so we just crossed over in the local scene. Regardless of him being a great friend, I truly believe he’s the best tattoo artist around and his wife’s (Elizabeth Burns-Kelley) work is also fantastic. They both have their own styles and it’s a perfect balance within the shop.
NEMMA: With “Skull and Snake” being a small tattoo business, not yet able to open, how are they dealing with the current situation?
Devin: Dan and Liz are both very hard-working people. Although this is a terrible time for businesses, I know that they are in their shop doing everything they can outside of tattooing to make sure that their studio is ready for business when the state allows it. When you go into their shop, it is like going into a museum. They have so many pieces of art and different artifacts, preserved animals, bones and oddities. Every visit I find something new. It is truly remarkable inside Skull and Snake. I’m sure they will recover from this and continue to thrive.
NEMMA: When did you get your very first tattoo and was it planned?
Devin: Before fighting I was huge into music and my biggest idol was Tom Delong from Blink 182. Tom had a full sleeve so I definitely wanted one. When I was 16 I knew a guy that tattooed out of his house and I went there and I got four stars on the inside of my bicep. Inside the stars it says; “live, fast, die, fun,” which is a Famous: Stars and Straps saying. Famous is owned by Travis Barker of Blink 182, who was also a huge idol of mine growing up. Funny little story that I’ve never actually told before; the placement of my first tattoo was inspired by Dax Shepard in the movie “Without a Paddle.” I always loved that movie when I was younger and I still think it’s hilarious. When I saw the stars on the inside of Dax’s bicep I thought it was a good spot for my ink to go.
NEMMA: You’ve had a lot of work done over the years, what’s some of the inspiration behind the art you wear on your skin?
Devin: Not everything is super inspired, my biggest thing is that I want to enjoy the piece of art itself. You don’t always hang a painting in your home that you want to look at every day because it has some huge deep meaning, you might just think it’s super rad. I love my sleeve, it is a mash up of two of my favorite movies; Fight Club and Pan’s Labyrinth. I’ve got “Pale Man” on my forearm; I always thought the scene with him was a good anecdote for fighting. He’s sitting at the table with tons of food in front of him, and the main character knows she can’t eat any of it, but she’s tempted,and does anyway, and all hell breaks loose. I think that’s like when you’re cutting weight for a fight; it’s easy to cheat but there are very serious repercussions.
NEMMA: What’s your favorite piece you wear?
Devin: My favorite and most meaningful is definitely my newest piece by Dan Kelley of Skull And Snake. We are working on a full back piece, which depicts the Allagash River (Northern Maine) in the background, where my family is all from, and a big moose skull, which is actually a rendering of the moose that my father just got. My father has been putting in for the lottery to hunt moose in Maine for pretty much as long as I’ve been alive, and he finally got selected a couple years ago so it was a big deal. My family owns most of the hunting camps in Allagash, my family and I go up and spend every Thanksgiving there, it is my favorite holiday and my favorite place to go.
The beginning of Powell’s backpiece, paying homage to his family and Maine’s Allagash River. Tattooed by Dan Kelley of “Skull and Snake Tattoo and Art Gallery, North Berwick, Maine.
NEMMA: Any immediate plans for more ink when shops are able to re-open?
Devin: I would love to get worked on the second the shops open back up, but everything must always happen around my training schedule. If I’m getting ready for a fight there’s no way I can get tattooed because I can’t train properly, anybody that gets tattooed during fight camp is at risk of getting a staph infection or they just don’t train as hard as they should. With strength and conditioning and Brazilian jiu jitsu and all of that stuff being required to train for a fight, so for me if I’m in camp, 100% no chance for me to get tattooed. So I’m always torn. I want to get tattooed but I want to fight. The best time for me to get tattooed is immediately following fights. I always have something booked for when the fight is over, so that while I’m healing from the fight, I can also heal from the tattoo. I still have a ton to do on my back piece so that’s next!
NEMMA: Do tattoos give you a sense of empowerment and do you feel they are part of your mental make-up?
Devin: I don’t really find tattoos to be empowering. I just have always been a big fan of the art. I think every tattoo hurts like hell, and everyone that says that they don’t probably only has a tiny shamrock on their ankle or something. When your tattoo artist’s name is “Man Hands” Dan Kelley, you know that you’re going to feel every stick of those needles and every second of ink.
NEMMA: If you could have any artist tattoo any design as part of your collection, who would be the artist and what would they be tattooing?
Devin: I really don’t know too many tattoo artists aside from ones local to me. I’m definitely going to get more work by Brian Rutland (Dover, New Hampshire) at some point and I would like to get tattooed by Dan’s wife Elizabeth at some point as well. I would like to wear a piece from all the different members of the shop. One future tattoo I’m very excited for is a giant piece that goes up my leg, all the way up to my ribs and up my other (non sleeved) arm. This will be a progressive piece, starting from what looks like the depths of hell, and the floor of the earth opening up underwater and having a bunch of monsters and sea creatures and then transitioning to land, and finishing in outer space.
NEMMA: Finally back to MMA, I don’t see that you have any fights lined up currently, what can we expect from your MMA career coming out of Quarantine?
Devin: Honestly, at this point in my career, everything is about the bucket list. If I could get an offer to fight on the UFC’s Fight Island I would do it, if Bellator would give me a legit contract, which I believe they want to once I’m healed, that would be interesting also, but I would love to fight in Japan, maybe on one of the RIZIN cards. At this point being able to see the world and also get compensated appropriately for whatI do and what I’ve sacrificed the last 11 or so years of fighting is most important to me. I am open to fighting for whoever can make that dream happen!
Powell anxiously awaits the opening bell before his clash with Marcus Surin at Bellator 232 as his coaches look on; left to right: Carol Linn Powell (wife/manager), Jay Mansfield (BJJ coach), Joe Lauzon (Head Coach).