May is National Foster Care Month. Please see the last section for more details on how you can help Smile’N Sam Alvey with this cause, as well as how to enter for a chance to win a $1000 Amazon gift card!
I recently had the opportunity to interview Smile’N Sam Alvey, who is coming off of a May 9th split-decision loss to Ryan Spann. We talked some about his family, his UFC career, his future, Jon Jones, how he would do in a fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, his passion for helping the foster care system, and much more!
Who Is Smile’N Sam Alvey?
Smile’N Sam Alvey is a UFC fighter that has competed in both the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions. A winner of 33 professional fights, Alvey is one of the most experienced fighters in the UFC today. He has earned one Performance of the Night bonus and is tied with Donald Cerrone with the most UFC fights in 365 days at 6.
Alvey began his career in 2008, fighting mostly for the King of the Cage promotion. Prior to joining the UFC, Alvey was a true journeyman in MMA. He bounced around over 10 promotions before finally getting his shot at the UFC on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson. Alvey was eliminated in just the third episode, ending his first shot at the UFC. After TUF, Alvey landed in the Maximum Fighting Championship. In his debut with the MFC, Alvey fought for the Middleweight champion, but lost via unanimous decision. He was able to earn another title fight later that year and was able to come away with the belt. After successfully defending the MFC Middleweight Championship once, Alvey was signed to the UFC.
Alvey did not have the best start to his UFC career, as he lost his UFC debut against Tom Watson via unanimous decision. He bounced back with three straight victories via knockout/technical knockout, followed by two more defeats. Alvey then went on a streak of winning seven out of his next nine fights, beating the likes of Eric Spicely, Nate Marquardt, Rashad Evans, and Gian Villante. Unfortunately, things have taken a turn for the worse since then, as Alvey is in the midst of a four-fight losing streak.
What was your life like growing up? Do you have any siblings?
Alvey- “Yeah, so I’m the middle child. I’ve got one brother that is 13 years older than me and I have a younger brother that is a year and 20 days younger than me. I grew up in Wisconsin, did a lot of outdoors stuff, I was always playing outside. I had loving parents. I grew up playing the trumpet. Yeah, it was a perfect childhood as I could have ever wished to have had.”
I read you were a pretty good trumpet player back in school, do you still play? Do you play any other instruments?
Alvey- “I still have a trumpet. I take it out and tune on it every now and then. But I don’t play half as well as I used to. I used to be able to hit the high notes and be able to play for hours but nowadays I can play for minutes before my lips burn out. I am a, maybe not great, but a pretty decent ukulele player, and I am learning the piano.”
What was your life like before MMA? What career path were you headed towards?
Alvey- “I was gonna have a gym. I was gonna have a lifting gym. I went to college and graduated with a bachelor’s in management. I was just planning on having a strengthening and conditioning kind of gym… We’re still going to do it, just after the fighting thing is done.”
When did your love for MMA start?
Alvey- “It was pretty much the first time I got beat up, which was my first fight. I was like ‘Oooh, this is pretty good’ so then I just started doing it every chance I could. I had six or seven amateur fights and then I turned pro. It was after I turned pro that I started training. And I just had a blast doing it.”
So you fought seven amateur fights before you even started training?
Alvey- “Yeah, I probably fought a couple of pro fights before I started really training, outside of just being in shape… Yeah, I mean the first four years of my career I was the head coach of the gym… I didn’t know what I was doing. I just made it up and won most of my fights making it up the way I do… You know what it is? I can just take a punch.”
You mentioned that for the first four years of your career you were the coach at your gym, who is your coach now?
Alvey- “Actually I am one of the coaches now at Dan Henderson’s gym. But Dan Henderson is our head coach. Gustavo Pugliese is my boxing coach. Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson is my head jiu-jitsu coach. And then I do a lot of work with Tom Gallicchio as well.”
How long have you been working with that team?
Alvey- “I have been with Team Quest for eight or nine years now.”
How important is it to be surrounded by a long-standing team like that?
Alvey- “It has been such a blessing getting to know my team and kind of growing into the UFC with my team. They’re just a wonderful group of guys. Very talented. They have Dan Henderson at the helm of the ship, which is incredible. As good as I will ever be, I am not going to be Dan Henderson.
What is your favorite fighting style?
Alvey- “Like traditional martial arts kind of answer? Well… wrestling. Wrestling is the most dominant form out there. It is the one… I hate fighting wrestlers. I hate training for wrestlers. I mean look at who the champions are for the UFC, they’re all wrestlers. I don’t think there is anyone that can argue that wrestling isn’t the most dominant form. Shoot, even jiu-jitsu changed jiu-jitsu rules because wrestlers started doing it.”
How do you feel about your wrestling?
Alvey- “I’ve got great takedown defense and no offense. I just never take anyone down. Really the secret to my success, my martial art, is I hit hard. I don’t know what martial art that falls into, but that really is it. If you watch me fight, I hit hard. That’s just the way I’ve always tried to fight.”
You started fighting professionally in 2008, were you strongly influenced by any fighters that came before you?
Alvey- “No! I didn’t even watch the UFC until I had 10 or 11 professional fights. I had no idea about what I was getting myself into. I never watched boxing or Taekwondo. I didn’t even really wrestle. I just liked doing it, so I did it. Eventually, I found out there was a UFC and I was like ‘Oh, cool!’ and then I headed up there a few years later.”
So you’re known for your smile, obviously given your nickname, where does the source of that smile come from? What keeps you smiling even when times are hard?
Alvey- “Oh, uh, have you seen my wife? She is HOT. I have NO reason not to smile.”
Who gave you that nickname?
Alvey- “I think it was my dad that said it first. I don’t really remember the origin of it, other than I have always been a fairly happy guy. But I believe it was my dad that said it first.”
What has been the worst injury you’ve had while either fighting or training?
Alvey- “Yeah so you never get hurt fighting, you only get hurt training. I mean I broke my jaw training. It didn’t hurt at all but it was a miserable recovery. Just six weeks of having your mouth wired shut. It was just miserable.”
You’ve fought at both Light Heavyweight and Middleweight in the UFC, which do you prefer so far?
Alvey- “They’re both fine. Light Heavyweight is a much easier weight cut. I always walk around 220 to 230 pounds between camps and to get to Light Heavyweight is pretty comfortable. To get to Middleweight is pretty difficult. It is always a hard cut. But I can get there just fine. Then the actual fights? The fights are a fight. There are challenging people at both weight classes.”
Who do you think is the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC today?
Alvey- “Well the best pound for pound fighter of all time is GSP, Georges St-Pierre. Second place is Mighty Mouse, Demetrious Johnson. Neither of those guys are in the UFC anymore. Number three I would go with Henry Cejudo… but he’s not in the UFC anymore either now. Then I would probably put Daniel Cormier number 4, but he only kinda might be in the UFC right now. So…. best current in the UFC… Shoot who? Uhh…”
Maybe Jon Jones? Or Stipe?
“No! Jon Jones is a cheater. He doesn’t belong on the list anymore. Jon Jones is always thrown into it but he is a cheater! He hasn’t won fights, he’s cheated to win fights. Let’s see. Who would be the best pound for pound in the UFC today? Max Holloway would be a notable mention. Oh, there is Khabib Nurmagomedov. Khabib is probably a good answer.”
How do you think you would do in a 5 round fight against him?
Alvey- “I think I would smash him. I’m so much bigger than he is. I would catch him at some point. He’s a 155-er and I’m a 220-er. I mean I would have to be on point. If got me down, it would be a hard time getting back up, but I am so much bigger than he is.”
What has been your favorite fight so far in your career?
Alvey- “You know, this last one against Spann was a pretty good one. That was a lot of fun to be a part of. But probably my favorite is Nate Marquardt. I really did like that fight. It was against a legend of the sport. He was actually my coach on The Ultimate Fighter. And it was just a real honor to be able to step in the cage with him.”
How was fighting against someone that helped teach you?
Alvey- “It was great! I’ve always been the guy that says I like to fight my friends. I make money, whoever I fight makes money, I’d much rather it be one of my friends. You know? Even when they lose, they’re still making some money off of fighting me. So getting the opportunity to fight someone that I have so much respect for was just a very cool opportunity.”
You just mentioned your fight with Ryann Spann, with everything going on in the world today, how did that affect your training leading up to this fight?
Alvey- “It was actually the best training camp I think I’ve ever had. Covid-19 didn’t affect me in any way. I had training partners. I had places to train. I had people to work with. But I didn’t have to teach all the classes I like to teach, so I had a lot more time to just relax and train.”
How different was the timeline preparing for this fight as far as when you learned about your opponent compared to the timeline of a previous fight?
Alvey- “I was supposed to fight Khalil Rountree March 28th and I signed that bout agreement in December. March 28th came and went and that got canceled. Then I was supposed to fight Ryan Spann April 19th in California, but then that got canceled. Two weeks later I got the call and it was Ryan Spann in Florida.”
How was the two-week timeline to prepare compared to the original three-month timeline?
Alvey- “I’ve had so many last-minute fights that two weeks was actually plenty of time. I was in shape. I didn’t know who I was fighting but I was in shape and that is usually the best place to be. And I’ve had faster-noticed fights and I was perfectly fine with the two-week notice.”
I saw the report saying you re-broke your hand prior to this fight but chose not to disclose that it was injured again to make sure the fight stayed on, knowing the result would you still go through with that?
Alvey- “Yeah I re-broke my hand April 24th. I wasn’t going to tell anyone because if I told anyone they wouldn’t have let me fight. I needed the money. I hadn’t fought since last July. I was supposed to fight again in November but I broke my hand in the camp for Shogun. I needed the work, so I couldn’t back out. It was almost enough.”
Do you think the fight would have gone differently with a normal training camp? If your hand wasn’t broken?
Alvey- “I like to tell myself that if it wasn’t broken I would have won the fight. But who knows? Maybe something else would have happened. In the fight, I felt I threw it with reckless abandonment. After the fight my hand was so swollen, it hurt so badly for two or three days. So in the fight, I threw it as hard as I wanted to. But the hard part was, for three weeks before the fight, I couldn’t hit mitts and I couldn’t spar like I wanted to. So that is where I think the problem was. I was a little too hesitant to throw some stuff. I was a little too hesitant to get my combos going.”
Being a split decision the fight was obviously very close, what could you have done differently to secure the victory in the eyes of the judges?
Alvey- “I should have leg kicked more… Should have leg kicked more. I didn’t realize they were hurting him as much as they were. Apparently the whole world did, just not me. And I outstruck him by a significant margin, I saw the post-fight scores. I outstruck him significantly. And had a better percentage of them landing. If I could have just landed a few more leg kicks it would have convinced another judge.”
You’ve been fighting for a long time, what is your process after a loss? Do you normally re-watch the fight immediately?
Alvey- “Well I give myself 24 hours to cry and feel like a loser. At 24 hours and 1 minute, I’ve got to be over it. I’ve got to be back at the gym getting ready for the next one. So I lost and I felt like a chump for my full day. But then I got home to my family. It was actually my birthday fight week and my family wasn’t allowed to go with this time. So I got home and my wife had made me a cake and had dinner ready. It was pretty wonderful. And then the next day I was back in the gym getting ready for whenever my next one is going to be.”
What is up next for you? Do you still have any fights left on your UFC contract?
Alvey- “Well I’m not supposed to talk about my contracts outside of the UFC and those involved, but as soon as my hand is healed, I plan on looking for another fight with the UFC!”
Who would you want to fight next?
Alvey- “I have no idea. At this point, I am on the backburner of the UFC I am sure. I just lost to a guy that was on the contender series. As talented as he is, I should not have lost to him. So I am probably going to get a no-named guy, maybe a guy that is making his debut in the UFC, and I will try and… well, it’s not try… I WILL turn my fortunes around with my next fight.”
As far as your hand goes, what is the timeline on recovery, do you think?
Alvey- “It was a non-displaced fracture. So it shouldn’t take all that long for it to heal. I get another x-ray in three weeks or so and the doctor will tell me what to do. He said right now I can do jiu-jitsu and stuff, he just told me not to hit anything.”
Do you see a switch back to Middleweight in your future?
Alvey- “Yeah, maybe. I might as well. I’m on a four-fight skid at Light Heavyweight, I’ve got to change something. And maybe a little bit smaller guy will do better. I hit Ryan Spann a couple of times pretty hard, eventually, I rocked him, but it took more shots than I was hoping for. So if I get a little bit of a smaller fella, I’ll have a little bit more luck.”
How does that conversation go with the decision-makers at the UFC? Is it just as simple as “I want to move to this weight?” Do you have to make your case?
“The UFC is such a professional, good organization. If you talk to them, tell them what you like, their answer is going to be yes. So when I went up to Light Heavyweight they were okay with it, so if I go back down they’ll be okay with that too. They want good fights and healthy fighters. They go out of their way to make sure both of those things happen.”
Is there anything you wish to promote in the article?
Alvey- “It is still May and I am a foster father and May is foster awareness month. So I am doing a little extra right now. I have a website called smilemma.com and we are trying to get people to sign in with the website. We are going to be a lot of raffles. We’re going to be giving away around $2500 in Amazon gift cards. I think the grand prize is a $1000 Amazon gift card. We’re just collecting emails right now so we can get information out about the foster system.
You don’t necessarily have to be a foster parent, you can be foster assistants. There are ways to help. And we are going to be building the charity around that. I would love for everyone reading this to just go on smilemma.com and just give it a little look. We’re going to be emailing out information on how to win and how to help. Especially now with corona being the way it is. As hard as it is on adults, it has been far worse on the foster community.”
National Foster Care Month
May is National Foster Care Month, which is a cause that is very special to Sam and McKey Alvey. They are active in the foster care community, with their home being open to foster children. They also recently implemented the Make Me Smile Challenge in order to help raise awareness and money to help support children in the foster care system. Please check out https://smilemma.com/smilechallenge/ to see how you can enter to win a $1000 Amazon gift card and more, courtesy of Ripper Nutrition! This challenge does have a tentative deadline of July but may get extended if enough people join in on the challenge. If you wish to assist financially there is also a donation button at the bottom!
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