One bad break helped lead to Devin Powell’s big break.

Powell, 28, has been fighting professionally in the mixed martial arts – a sport that combines techniques of wrestling and boxing with martial arts such as kickboxing, judo and karate – since 2012.

The South Berwick native has fought mostly in front of small crowds in northern New England, but on Sunday night he will have his biggest payday yet – more than $20,000 if he wins – for a nationally televised fight in Phoenix.

His breaks came in August. On short notice, Powell got a chance to fight in front of Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization.

White was in Bangor taping his YouTube show, “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight.” The premise of the show is that White goes to a small venue to watch a local mixed martial arts fight card. If a fighter impresses enough, he or she can get signed to fight in the UFC.

Early in the fight Powell made a positive impression on White and his two co-hosts, Matt Serra and Din Thomas, with his leg kicks and assertive style.

Then his opponent, Jon Lemke, caught him with a punch that grotesquely broke Powell’s nose.

Later Thomas would say, “It looked like his nose turned inside out, upside-down and folded to one side.”

As the blood flowed freely, Powell wiped it off and came back at Lemke, backing him up with kicks and punches. A Powell uppercut staggered Lemke, and within seconds Powell had applied a rear-naked chokehold for the submission win, causing Serra to jump from his seat shouting profane encouragement.

Soon, White and his camera crew were backstage offering Powell his first UFC fight. White liked him as a fighter. Even more, he liked the way Powell fought through adversity.

“I’m glad it happened. I’m glad my nose was broken,” Powell said after a recent workout. “It showed I could battle back from that adversity.”

Devin Powell spars with Muay Thai teacher Tim Hagan, one his main training partners, during a recent workout at his Nostos MMA training facility in Somersworth, New Hampshire.

Devin Powell spars with Muay Thai teacher Tim Hagan, one his main training partners, during a recent workout at his Nostos MMA training facility in Somersworth, New Hampshire. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Powell, who has an 8-1 record and the 155-pound New England Fights title, makes his UFC debut Sunday night on the undercard at the UFC Fight Night 103 at the 13,000-seat Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. His opponent is Drakkar Klose, another 28-year-old UFC newcomer with a 6-0-1 record, who trains in Arizona.

The three-round fight will be shown live on Fox Sports 1 as one of four preliminary bouts from 8 to 10 p.m. Powell has been told that his fight will be the last of the four, starting about 9:30 p.m.

BENEFITS OF A CLOSE-KNIT TEAM

UFC Fight Night routinely attracts more than 2 million viewers for its weekly shows, held at large arenas across North America. UFC’s best-known fighters, such as Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, have reached celebrity status transcending mixed martial arts.

Powell joins a short list of fighters from Maine who have appeared on a UFC card. Retired fighters Marcus Davis of Houlton, Mike Brown of Standish, and former heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia of Ellsworth each had multiple UFC fights. Tim Boetsch of Lincolnville is currently the No. 14 ranked middleweight with a 20-10 record. Boetsch will take a two-match winning streak into his Feb. 11 fight against Jacare Souza at UFC 208.

Powell was originally scheduled to fight Jordan Rinaldi, who withdrew before Christmas with an injury.

“This is going to be a huge fight with several thousand people, and I’m fighting a kid from Arizona so that’s something to take into account, too, but I’m definitely prepared for that jump,” said Powell, who lives now in Wells. “I’ve already fought in front of the big man (White). I didn’t have a training camp for it. This one I’ve had the best camp of my life and I’m stronger than ever.”

Powell and Klose have vastly different training situations.

Klose, who hails from South Haven, Michigan, trains at MMA Lab, a large gym based in Glendale, Arizona, that is home to several other UFC fighters.

Powell does his training at Nostos MMA, the “family-friendly” gym he’s owned and operated since May 2014. The gym boasts more than 100 students who cut across all age groups.

“Ninety percent of the people who train here just want to get in good shape and learn practical self-defense and have a fun, positive place for their families and children to be a part of,” Powell said.

The two-room gym is located between a beverage store and a pizza parlor in Somersworth, New Hampshire, just over the state line from South Berwick. One room has a partial cage where Powell focuses his training, at times having to work around rambunctious young children scooting through.

Powell spars with Muay Thai teacher Tim Hagan.

Powell has owned and operated the Nostos MMA, a “family-friendly” gym, since May 2014. The gym boasts more than 100 students who cut across all age groups. Here he spars with Muay Thai teacher Tim Hagan. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Powell’s training partners include former workout partners at various gyms – guys such as 42-year-old George Law, a BJJ brown belt whose own athletic claim to fame was being part of the Dover, New Hampshire, 1987 Little League World Series team.

“There’s a million guys who say they want to be a fighter,” Law said. “He’s one of the only ones to put in all the effort. Devin has unbelievable dedication and work ethic.”

Powell believes his close-knit team, headed by coaches Adam Rivera and Jay Mansfield and cornerman Keegan Hornstra, actually gives him an advantage, even though no one in the group has UFC experience.

“I believe my coaches are phenomenal, and I also get to have a lot of ‘me time,’ ” Powell said. “There are gyms with several hundred fighters who are phenomenal but they are also all fighting for individual time with their coaches. There are some gyms where you don’t have to seek out training partners. Everyone you get is going to be good. I’m just making sure I’m filtering through the best guys in the area and my coaches are putting in double sessions specifically with me every day.”

The name of Powell’s gym has meaning. Nostos is a Greek word, meaning homecoming or homeward journey (think Odysseus returning from the Trojan War).

For Powell, Nostos symbolizes breaking out of an unfulfilling job and coming “home” to a new life as a business owner, martial arts instructor and – for at least a few more years – a professional fighter. Powell lives with his fiancée, Carol Linn Hawkins, and his daughter, Clementine, who turns 5 the day after her father’s big fight.

‘THIS IS MY LAST RUN’

It was while doing clerical work at the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that Powell realized he needed a positive outlet away from his monotonous job. That’s when he first stepped into an MMA gym.

Prior to that, Powell’s lone combat sport experience was as an 8-year-old when he tried wrestling for a couple of days.

“I went in and got matched up with DeeDee Rix and I got rag-dolled by a girl,” Powell said, laughing at the memory. “That was it for me.”

Deanna (Rix) Betterman, the daughter of longtime Marshwood High wrestling coach Matt Rix, went on to become one of the top female wrestlers in the United States, placing at World Championships and winning gold at the 2010 Pan American Games.

“He was absolutely a blank slate,” said Rivera, one of the coaches who has been in Powell’s corner for all of his amateur and professional fights. “He had never even had a fistfight as a kid. His first fight was in a cage.”

But when the once-aspiring guitarist, who graduated from Marshwood High in 2006, came to mixed martial arts as an adult, he quickly became a convert.

“I started out doing jujitsu tournaments and I did really well with them, beat some Brazilian kids,” Powell said. “My coaches just saw me show up every single day and get better and never stop. I was horrible when I started. So they asked me if I would fight and I took it.”

It was a broken nose that got Devin Powell's foot in the door. Officials were so taken with his scrappiness amid a fighting injury that he'll now strut his stuff at UFC Fight Night 103.

It was a broken nose that got Devin Powell’s foot in the door. Officials were so taken with his scrappiness amid a fighting injury that he’ll now strut his stuff at UFC Fight Night 103. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

He lost his first amateur fight, then won three straight and was ranked No. 1 among Northeast 155-pound amateurs when he turned pro in 2012.

He won his first fight, then lost his second. Powell was 3-1 when he opened Nostos MMA. His career idled with just one fight over the next 20 months before he went on a four-match win streak between February and August in 2016.

He won a decision at a New Hampshire-based Combat Zone show, claimed his New England Fights title with a first-round TKO over Jesse Erickson, in April, and then won a split decision over Tom Marcellino on a World Series of Fighting show at Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut in June, as part of the undercard of an NBC telecast.

After the Marcellino fight, Powell was beat up and needed a rest from fighting and active training. His back ached and a foot was injured. When he got the call to fight in front of White, he was left with three weeks to prepare. Not ideal, but an opportunity he had to take.

“I knew that with my record and if I performed well I would definitely be capable of fighting at the next level,” Powell said. “When you get that chance to fight directly in front of (Dana White) and put on a show, that’s something you can’t say no to.”

Powell has a non-guaranteed, four-fight contract with the UFC. He’ll earn $10,000 for fighting, plus a $2,500 bonus from Reebok. The winner gets an additional $10,000. Powell’s largest previous payday was at the World Series of Fighting show when he earned $1,500 for the fight, $1,500 for the win and got a small percentage on the 100-plus tickets he sold.

“Regardless of what your deal is, in the UFC you can have one fight and be gone if you don’t perform,” Powell said. “The goal is to fight well enough to have four fights with them.”

Rivera said his fighter will win because Powell has multiple strong skills, including powerful leg kicks, “and I just personally have never seen anyone work as hard as he does.”

“I know that this is my last run,” Powell said. “I’m not fighting after I’m done with the UFC, whether it’s off of a winning or a losing streak. You have a life clock with fighting. So I have a couple of years left. But I can teach martial arts for the rest of my life.”