Typically, the term “hungry” in mixed martial artists either refers to a young, rising up-and-comer with a lot of time ahead and nothing to lose, or an older fighter who is washed up and trying to convince people that he has one last run in him. Very rarely do fans get the treat of a seasoned vet who is still relatively young with a lot of time in front of him and who can honestly say he’s hungry.
Even before he had his two children over the last few years, “Smile’n” Sam Alvey was a hungry fighter. He never backed down from a challenge. He made an attempt to fight 15 pounds light on The Ultimate Fighter just to gain some recognition. He clawed his way back into the Octagon after coming up short on the reality series. And he became a father to a son and daughter along the way. With a 26-6-1 record going back seven years, Alvey is still only 29 years old. He has gone 3-1 in his UFC career, which is only a year old, and is riding a three-fight knockout streak. Smile’n Sam is hungry, literally and figuratively.
It may seem difficult for a husband and father of two to be a full-time fighter, accepting every fight the UFC brass throws his way, but in Alvey’s case, his family and fight lives are one and the same.
“My family and gym’s been very supportive, so whenever I’m training, the kids are there with me, my wife’s always there with me, and it’s just the way life is,” Alvey told Combat Press. “You know, when I get closer to my fight, that’s when everything gets a little more stressful, but that’s only because I’m dieting. A hungry Sam gets a little crazy.
“I wouldn’t have the career I’ve had if it wasn’t for my family. They’ve been great with me, and I’m trying to be as great for them as I can be.”
Crazy, indeed. That is very apparent when he steps into the cage. Alvey’s last three fights went a total of six minutes and 39 seconds, combined, and they all happened in a five-month span. In his last three outings, the guy has been absolutely devastating every opponent the UFC puts in front of him in less than one round.
Alvey’s last opponent was Australia’s Dan Kelly, a high-level judo black belt. Many people assumed that Kelly would take the fight right to the ground, but that was not the case. This made Alvey a happy, happy man.
“I didn’t think he was going to press quite as hard as he did,” Alvey admitted. “I’m glad he did, but I wasn’t expecting him to come out quite so fast.
“For that fight, I had actually torn my LCL about five weeks before the day, so I had trained nothing but boxing. I couldn’t touch the ground, because I couldn’t stand up if I went down. So it was really a blessing that it worked out the way it did, because it could have been a very dangerous fight for me.”
It was not a dangerous fight for Alvey, but it was for Kelly. After 49 seconds, the judoka was being rescued by the ref. Meanwhile, Alvey was still smilin’.
This did not satiate Alvey’s hunger. If anything, it just fueled the fire. The Wisconsin native and longtime member of Dan Henderson’s Team Quest is always ready to go. So, when the UFC came calling only a couple months later, he gladly obliged.
“It’s just been the philosophy of my entire career — if it’s offered, I say yes,” Alvey explained. “I’m always ready, I never take any time off, and I love doing this. Whenever I get the opportunity, of course I’m going to say yes.”
Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 73 in Nashville, Tenn., Alvey will step into the cage for the third time this year. He faces three-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler Derek Brunson, who has a combined 7-3 record between his four years under the UFC and Strikeforce banners. Brunson, who is 13-3 overall, is a well-rounded challenger, but Alvey has been vigorously preparing for the strongest aspect of Brunson’s game.
“It’s a dangerous match-up,” Alvey said. “He’s a superstar wrestler. He has some power in his hands, but it’s the wrestling that could be the problem. I come from a great wrestling background of my own, and my team is filled with wrestlers — Jesse Taylor, Dan Henderson, all those guys — and I’ve been training with a collegiate wrestling team as well. I think I match up great with him, and I’m ready for whatever he can throw at me.”
Alvey has been training with the wrestlers from NCAA Division II California Baptist University. He’s been getting a lot of rounds in with the youngsters, and he hopes to have this extra level of training pay off tomorrow night.
“Cal Baptist is about 40 minutes from me, and they come out to me often enough, and I’ve been out to them a couple of times, and I’m just having them put me on my back over and over again,” explained the former high school wrestler. “Brunson is going to try to take me down. He is going to try to ride me for 15 minutes, and he’s not going to be able to. I’m too prepared for him.”
For an “old man” like Alvey, training with all these young college kids might seem like a tough task from a conditioning point of view.
“I don’t get tired,” Alvey said. “I started fighting about seven or eight years ago. I don’t take time off. I’ve never stopped. So, with my cardio, I’m always ready for five rounds.”
Tomorrow night, live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Alvey will step into the cage for the 33rd time as a professional to face an opponent who has taken out guys like Chris Leben, Lorenz Larkin and Ed Herman to extend his UFC winning streak to four. To say that Alvey is hungry is an understatement. He is prepared to knock out any opponent the UFC brass puts in front of him, and his wife and kids will be ringside. However, the biggest winners of the evening, as usual, will be the fans.
“Every fight, I fight to be ‘Fight of the Night.’ Tune in, and I promise you I will do everything in my power to make this the best fight I’ve ever had.”