Everything about UFC middleweight Sam Alvey just screams “happy.” From the ringtone on his cell phone when you give him a call, to the extremely pleasant voicemail you listen to if you need to leave him a message, to his very friendly greeting when he calls you back, you just get the feeling that Alvey has a smile perpetually etched on his face.
This explains perfectly why Alvey goes by the nickname “Smile’n Sam” and is constantly smiling, even when he’s on his way to the Octagon to trade blows with his opponent. So, how does Alvey explain his always-positive mindset? It’s pretty simple.
“I just love what I do, and love what I’ve always done,” Alvey, whose record stands at 29-8, told Combat Press. “When I find something that I love to do, I do it all the way. I loved playing my trumpet, and I didn’t get paid to do it. But I know people who did get paid, but I still loved playing it. I just quit playing the trumpet when I couldn’t do that and fight at the same time.”
Alvey played trumpet as part of a local orchestra in his native Wisconsin. While his fellow members got paid, Alvey just received school credit. It’s a skill he hopes to pass down to one of his children. Alvey describes his trumpet-playing skills as “semi-pro.”
MMA is also a family endeavor for Alvey. His wife Brittany (McKey) Alvey, who won the 11th season of America’s Next Top Model, trains with Alvey, and he credits his better half with helping to get his career off the ground after they first met at a Renaissance fair.
“She started with me, being in my corner, because I told people she was in my corner so she could get a free ticket,” Alvey said. “I love having her around, I really do. We roll jiu-jitsu together and we watch video together. She drove me all the way to California to join a big gym. I wouldn’t have a career if not for her.
“It’s all one life, blended together. We have the kids at the gym all the time, and they joke that I’m a bad fan because I don’t watch the pay-per-views.”
Alvey trains at Team Quest, the legendary gym founded by Randy Couture, Matt Lindland and Dan Henderson. The opportunity to train with Hall of Famers wasn’t the only reason that Alvey moved out west to pursue his dream.
“People are drawn to that gym,” Alvey said. “People around the world stay with me while they train there — guys from Germany, France and Malaysia. They want to train there and be a huge part of that.”
It took more than just training at a well-known gym for Alvey to get his career off the ground. After toiling away on the regional MMA circuit for nearly six years, Alvey got a call from the UFC to compete on season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter. However, there was a catch: Alvey, normally a middleweight, had to compete as a welterweight on the show, which meant he had to cut 15 pounds or more in weight.
“It was hard to fight at 170 pounds, and I blame the weight cut for not winning the show,” Alvey said. “But when the UFC calls, you don’t say no.”
Alvey said his initial weight cut to 170 pounds “worked really well,” and he won his preliminary bout with a first-round knockout. However, Alvey’s next fight came only six days later, which meant another brutal weight cut.
“I felt crappy when I went in the cage,” Alvey said. “I had to drop 40 pounds to get in the house, then I put 35 pounds back on. But then I had to lose 40 pounds again.”
Although Alvey lost during the third episode of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC signed him to a contract. Alvey enjoyed three wins in his first four UFC fights, with all three victories coming by first-round knockout. Then, Alvey suffered back-to-back losses to Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou. He has since rebounded with three straight victories, and he credits his teammates with getting him back on track.
“I have a great team and training partners that can beat me up,” Alvey said. “I look, like, to my left and right so much during training that my back and neck start to tighten up.”
While competing on The Ultimate Fighter, one of Alvey’s coaches was Nate Marquardt, whom Alvey now faces on the next UFC on Fox card on Jan. 28, 2017. Alvey considers it the biggest of his career.
“I’m honored to fight him,” Alvey said. “Nate is a next-level athlete, and as much as I love him, he’s going to have to watch me get my hand raised in victory.”
Before Alvey steps into the Octagon again, he’s going to enjoy the holidays with his family and a quick trip back to his native Wisconsin. He may even take in more showings of the new film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which Alvey saw when it opened last weekend.
“I loved it,” he said. “I enjoyed every part of it, and Darth Vader was such a badass. I’ll probably see it again three or four times.”
Which Star Wars film is his favorite? The Empire Strikes Back.
“The sword fights and the swerve in that one were awesome,” Alvey said. “But I also enjoyed episode[s] one and six, too. Basically any of the ones before Jar Jar Binks showed up.”