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The wild lifetime of the UFC’s happiest fighter


THERE ARE THREE CREATURES on Earth who despise Sam Alvey, and at this very second, they’re huddled in a nook, evident at him, ready for a gap to go round or by him.

“Watch, as quickly as I open this gate, they’re going to band collectively and run away from me,” the UFC fighter says. “They hate me a lot.”

Positive sufficient, Alvey opens the gate in his barn and the three black-bellied sheep type a small pack for a couple of seconds… then rush previous him, out of the barn and into Alvey’s open discipline the place his horses roam.

Alvey is at a loss. He takes excellent care of the sheep. He loves them sufficient to call them Hughes, Jefe and CeCe, in order that when he calls out to them, it appears like “U-F-C.” He sounds just a little heartbroken as he stares out into the sphere and talks concerning the unreturned love of U, F and C. The sheep lurk alongside Alvey’s two horses, Khan and Whisper, like quarterbacks hiding behind two large linemen.

At night time time, the one means Alvey can get them to return again in is that if he walks the horses into the barn, waits for the sheep to observe them in, then closes the gate behind them. They dash to the nook of their barn stall and provides him the evil eye as he closes them into their pen for the night time and leaves. He at all times softly says, “Good night time, U-F-C,” however they’re ruthless with their frost.

“I do not get it,” Alvey says. “I simply do not. I raised them from the day they had been born, and I feed them, and I do every thing for them. And so they hate me a lot.” Alvey appears to want a hug at this second. However largely his life out right here on the farm in Tennessee is a wild and completely satisfied journey. He married McKey Sullivan, winner of season 11 of “America’s Subsequent High Mannequin,” they usually each ended up with the identical primary targets: Have as many children, animals and UFC fights as attainable.

They’ve had plenty of all three. They’re as much as six children beneath the age of 10, and they’re nearly assuredly not performed. McKey simply gave beginning to a son in early June, Evander, throughout a 22-hour dwelling beginning at their farm. She’s as chill as Sam is. She gave beginning at dwelling, with the opposite children wandering round and Sam filming it. “It was a fantastic day, and I needed the youngsters to see how they had been born,” she says.

They’ve raised just about the complete farm of animals as if they had been beloved infants, too. McKey had all 30 chickens in the home for some time, naming every one in every of them. There is a Batman 1, Batman 2 and Batman 3, as an example.

At one level, she tells a narrative about how she took care of the child chicks. As she talks, she is breastfeeding Evander on one arm and making Swedish pancakes within the kitchen with the opposite hand. In the midst of all of it, a hairless cat with one eye — Cali Kitty, a current rescue — jumps off the counter and onto her shoulders. Cali Kitty simply lays throughout the again of her neck like a shawl as she flips pancakes and nurses Evander. It seems like some type of unimaginable TikTok problem.

When she’s performed rattling off the hen names, she mentions their two turkeys, two horses, three canines, three Guinea hens, the three anti-Sam sheep, 4 cats, 4 geese and 6 geese. Sam wonders if they need to depend the turtle, Kevin, that they discovered alongside the street and put of their pond, however they have not seen him in a month. Perhaps not?

“Why would Kevin ever wish to depart?” McKey pushes again.

So Kevin stays within the depend. That brings the short tally to 57, however McKey jumps in and says “That is 57… so 63.”

Wait, the place’d the additional six come from?

“I am counting the youngsters on there, too,” she says. “We’ve got 63 heartbeats we have now to handle.”

“Then you need to make it 64,” says their 9-year-old, Reagan, and the entire room is confused till she drops the punchline. “For Jordan.”

All of them chuckle and look towards the visitor bed room. Apparently, there’s a Bellator fighter named Jordan Winski, a longtime pal of Alvey’s, who resides on the home, too. However Sam pronounces that the sixty fourth heartbeat most likely will not be seen a lot immediately as a result of he was up all night time taking part in video video games.

Superb, let’s add within the 33-year-old cage fighter with a 12-3 document and go together with 58 non-adults at Alvey Farm.

To fund this journey, Alvey fights each single time the UFC calls. And that has been usually: Alvey is about to have his twenty fourth profession UFC battle, hallowed floor in a corporation the place solely 28 fighters have ever gotten previous 26 profession fights. UFC champions Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey and Bas Rutten fought 18 UFC fights mixed. It is a particular class of agreeable, sturdy grinder that makes it to 2 dozen fights within the Octagon.

Alvey is all of these issues, plus he is likely to be probably the most well-liked character within the UFC. In a world of fighters that ask to be referred to as “The Axe Assassin” and “The Nightmare,” Alvey is… “Smile’n Sam.” His dad had steered perhaps “The Grin Reaper” had just a little extra edge. However Alvey in the end thought the nickname that match him the very best was “Smile’n Sam,” and he is been that ever since.

That is what makes it so exhausting to consider that the happiest man in MMA hasn’t gained a battle in 4 years.

WHEN ALVEY WAS A KID, his mother at all times stated to him, “Do not sweat the small stuff… and it is all small stuff.”

All people writes that on their kitchen dry-erase board. So it may be jarring to see somebody who looks as if he is really capable of dwell that mantra. Alvey is so completely satisfied and considers his life an enormous success… and but is in the midst of an all-time UFC drought.

He hasn’t gained a battle since June 1, 2018, proper across the time Ben Simmons was named NBA rookie of the yr and NFL No. 1 draft decide Baker Mayfield was going to save lots of the Browns. There have been 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe films and 9 MCU TV reveals since he beat Gian Villante at UFC Struggle Night time: Rivera vs. Moraes. “These previous few years have not gone in accordance with plan,” he says, and he smiles. He is aware of what an understatement that’s.

Alvey is 0-7-1 throughout that stretch, taking a string of maybe ill-advised last-minute gives or accepting late replacements for scheduled fights. Solely BJ Penn has ever had that many fights and not using a victory. If Alvey would not beat Michal Oleksiejczuk on Aug. 6 at UFC Struggle Night time in Vegas, he’ll end out his present contract with the worst winless stretch within the historical past of the UFC. “That is most likely it for me, even when I win,” he admits.

And but you’d by no means understand it as you watch him transfer concerning the world. How many people may go winless 4 years in our skilled lives and be Smile’n’ Mike or Smile’n’ Michelle across the water cooler?

When Alvey will get performed feeding the animals within the morning, he comes inside to feed himself. The UFC has a meal plan for fighters now, and Alvey has labored with a UFC nutritionist to design shipments of packaged meals that work for him.

So he busts out a low-calorie meal of baked ziti from the freezer and heats it up. Sooner or later very quickly, Alvey’s going to have to fret about his weight. As he heads for the microwave this June 17 morning, he weighs 224 kilos. On the afternoon of Aug. 5, he’ll should weigh 186 kilos.

The children are lined up alongside the kitchen counter, scarfing down breakfast. They take turns going again to the sofa to carry Evander. He’s a remarkably calm three-week-old human. although he does appear to consistently take a look on his face like he is watching a dwell feed of a frenzied actuality present. However on this case, the truth present is “Meet the Alveys,” and he’s a solid member now.

It is 9:30 a.m. when Alvey, 36, finishes his meals, which implies it is time for him to go prepare at a neighborhood health club. He has his foremost camp in California with MMA legend Dan Henderson. However in Tennessee, he discovered close by Guardian MMA to get some sparring in earlier than heading out west for an intense seven-week ramp-up to what’s almost certainly his final UFC battle.

He thinks he gained a couple of of these fights — three of them had been by the always-dreaded cut up resolution, each fighter’s worst attainable state of affairs the place one choose might need missed or overrated one punch or takedown and scored it for the opposite man. In these three fights, Alvey really out-landed his opponents, 184-176, however got here out with zero victories (two losses and one draw).

“Cut up choices,” he says, and he shakes his head, drawing out the ‘s’ sounds in ‘choices’ in such an extended, disgusted tone that it feels prefer it ought to be bleeped. He says UFC brass has instructed him that they agree with him that he bought jobbed at the very least a couple of instances up to now 4 years. On this case, these reassurances appear legit, as a result of it is nearly inexplicable in immediately’s UFC to see a mid-tier fighter (Alvey has gotten as excessive as No. 15 however hasn’t been ranked in years) go eight fights and not using a win and nonetheless be within the group.

His likeability is little question a major a part of that. Cage combating generally is a brutal survival-of-the-fittest sport, with violent, unconscious ends to fights and to careers, and most of the greatest occasions profit enormously when the insults between fighters are as nasty and actual as attainable. This can be a world of imply mugs, not smiles. And but, Alvey continues to be as busy as ever. “I’ve but to fulfill anyone who would not like Sam Alvey,” Henderson says.

So in that means, Alvey is refreshing. He has a supervisor — her identify is McKey Sullivan — who handwrites Christmas notes to about 90 UFC staff that her consumer has ever interacted with. She at all times features a household picture, filled with smiling Alveys, together with a $5 Starbucks reward card for every particular person. UFC president Dana White at all times will get a $10 card.

For higher or worse, he is additionally Dana White’s type of fighter. Which means he is taken a number of last-second bouts over time, none of which he is gained however he at all times confirmed up. “I am the fighter that by no means says no,” Alvey says.

As Henderson listens to the start of a query about Alvey’s willingness to take any battle, he purses his lips in disapproval after which interrupts: “It hasn’t helped his profession route not being extra cautious with opponents and being able to go,” he says. “Taking fights on quick discover hasn’t actually helped him.”

Tens of millions of People can most likely determine with the push-pull fighters like Alvey kind by. Make the bosses completely satisfied by taking the job? Or advocate for your self and push again towards administration?

Alvey has made his alternative, and he has no regrets. As he drives to the health club, he nods alongside throughout a back-and-forth dialog about what number of of his fellow fighters agitate towards the UFC’s pay practices. How can heavyweight champion boxers get $20-30 million per battle and the UFC champ, Francis Ngannu, bought $600,000 for his final protection?

Alvey will get it; he simply disagrees.

“I do not learn about different fighters, however the UFC has been actually good to me,” he says, and he admits he isn’t the very best particular person to critique, for instance, how the group will pay fighters about 20 % of income when different main sports activities leagues are nearer to 50 % going to athletes.

“The UFC pays properly,” he says. “I do know folks wish to complain. My spouse and I lived pretty properly in California with three youngsters with nothing however a UFC contract. I am going to at all times defend that.”

Exhibit A of how Alvey feels concerning the UFC? His child’s center identify, Evander Dana Alvey. So Evander Dana’s dad will not be main a fighter union picket any time quickly.

Alvey has discovered a spot for his giant pickup truck outdoors the health club, and he pops open the again to tug out shin guards and gloves. He mentions a name from six months in the past, when he had simply misplaced one other battle and was at a YMCA along with his total household when UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard known as. He pulled McKey right into a facet room and put the decision on speaker. He thought this is likely to be the second he’d dreaded, when the UFC let him understand it was time to maneuver on.

However as a substitute, Maynard stated the UFC would let him battle out the ultimate bout on his contract, and particularly mentions how a lot everyone on the UFC enjoys working with him. As he gathers his gear, Alvey once more confesses he is fairly certain this might be it for him within the UFC. He says he’ll make $75,000 for his subsequent battle, one other $75,000 if he wins, and $21,000 for sporting Venum gear into the Octagon.

Alvey is an motion fighter who likes standing and banging, which his coaches bark at him for, however it usually has him within the dialog for one of many UFC’s end-of-card bonuses. That may very well be one other $50,000 for his probably UFC farewell battle. Throw within the $250,000 revenue the Alveys banked from the sale of their California dwelling a yr in the past, and Alvey has a pleasant monetary bridge if retirement is across the nook.

He opens the health club door and says he hopes he wins and will get one other contract… however even he realizes that is most likely optimistic. His 6-year-old son, Crosby, bounds into the health club behind and asks what dad will do if he isn’t within the UFC. The children are younger sufficient that they’ve seen him win and lose — largely lose — however they’ve by no means seen Dad not within the UFC.

Alvey says he’d wish to preserve combating, perhaps in Bellator or Naked Knuckle Combating Championship. If that does not work out — and there is a very actual chance that Alvey hits the free company market on an 0-8-1 anti-heater — Alvey is a large professional wrestling fan who grew up dreaming of being within the WWE.

He says in a worst-case state of affairs, he may at all times retire from MMA, educate jiu-jitsu lessons and assist his spouse handle different fighters. His identify resonates round right here: There aren’t many guys on the earth who can say they’d 51 professional MMA fights (Alvey is 33-17-1 general) in 4 totally different weight lessons, not to mention in central Tennessee. “I am Smile’n Sam Alvey, child,” he says with a smirk, pulling on his sparring gloves.

He is definitely the largest star within the health club that morning. Alvey may crush just about anyone right here with out breaking a lot of a sweat, however that does not cease everyone from taking their finest photographs. A skinny however robust man in a good “NeverEnding Story” T-shirt comes ahead with a couple of entrance kicks, catching Alvey fairly exhausting within the intestine. That will get Alvey’s consideration, and he begins to march ahead and eat up territory.

Alvey’s talent set is stable throughout the board for knowledgeable fighter. However he is a little bit of an oddity in MMA as a result of he has no actual blue-chip asset to fall again on aside from being a troublesome man with some energy. He isn’t a black belt, or an All-American wrestler, or a Golden Gloves champion.

He does, nevertheless, know the right way to stroll down guys in “NeverEnding Story” T-shirts, and Alvey begins to exert his means to dictate the place the sparring will occur. For the final two minutes of this three-minute spherical, he places a spatial squeeze on his opponent, touchdown gentle punches that would have put the Bastian superfan down if Alvey actually needed to.

The bell rings, and everyone within the room switches companions. Alvey faces off with back-to-back large guys, each about 6-foot-4 and north of 250 kilos. The second sparring companion is the health club’s co-owner, Matt Maskovyak, who Alvey cannot management. Maskovyak, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, is ready to transfer ahead, bouncing from foot to foot.

However Alvey has a quickness benefit, so he will get off gentle punches and kicks first. Maskovyak is ready to counter and problem Alvey sufficient that by the point the bell rings once more, he is bought a great sweat going. “That is the purpose — burn 1,000 energy and shake off a number of the rust,” Alvey says.

The following spherical is about to start out, and Alvey squares up towards a shock sparring companion: It is McKey. She’s a longtime jiu-jitsu practitioner who likes to kickbox on the health club when she will be able to. On battle nights, she is one in every of Alvey’s nook folks, and generally the one particular person that may rattle Alvey’s cage when he wants to regulate his recreation plan throughout a battle.

On this morning, she brings the opposite 5 children to hang around within the again room of the health club whereas she will get some rounds in. She has on golden gloves and is the one particular person within the room sporting headgear.

The bell dings, and the husband and spouse faucet gloves and begin measuring up one another. McKey says she’s 6-foot, however her attain appears longer than that. She shouldn’t be messing round: She zips in a entrance kick that connects with Alvey’s midsection, then one other. The second kick makes a thud noise and Alvey lets out a groan. “Holy crap,” he says, and takes a step backward.

He gathers himself and pushes ahead, throwing a couple of gentle jabs, and he or she fires again for the subsequent two and a half minutes. On the finish, they faucet gloves and transfer on to new companions. what marriage therapists at all times say… {couples} that front-kick collectively keep collectively. “It is like a date night time for us,” she says later. “That is probably the most eye contact we ever have.”

On the finish of the exercise, Alvey is drenched in sweat. He did certainly get a good exercise. On the drive dwelling, he is going by his dropping streak and once more lamenting MMA judges as he maneuvers his pickup truck by the winding again roads of Murfreesboro.

From the again seat, Crosby interrupts: “Dad, if I used to be a choose, I might choose that the one who wins the battle will get to win the battle.”

Sam smiles. He seems proud, like a dad whose honor simply bought defended. “Me too,” he says. “I have been screwed too many instances by the judges.”

A couple of seconds cross earlier than Sam chuckles and says to nobody particularly, “Cut up choices.”

THE ALVEYS HAVE A VAN that’s extra bus than van. It seats 15 comfortably, and after they load up the entire gang, it is fairly a busy scene.

On a street journey in June, they head for Chattanooga for a neighborhood MMA card. Alvey simply began doing commentary on the B2 Combating Collection broadcasts, and it is good fights, with good pay. Alvey likes that it is one other attainable income stream if his profession is certainly winding down.

Sam is driving, and every child has a lollipop in a single hand and is working over a mint chocolate chip Klondike bar within the different all through the two-hour drive. For the primary hour or so, it is exhausting to listen to their little voices from the again due to how loud the van may be on the freeway. The whir of air is one notch beneath an airplane at 10,000 toes as Alvey makes his means down the interstate.

As Alvey drives, McKey tells what’s a improbable midwestern love story. They met at a Renaissance honest in Wisconsin 17 years in the past, after they had been each youngsters, and their first date was espresso at a neighborhood truck cease. Sam paid utilizing cash from his job on the honest, which was promoting steak on a stick for $4.50.

Steak on a stick, he explains, is meat that’s steak-ish however undoubtedly not actual steak. “It is really fairly good,” he says. They have been collectively ever since, regardless of lengthy durations of residing aside.

Maybe the hardest stretch was 2008, when McKey was chosen for Season 11 of “America’s High Mannequin.” Sam had fought all around the nation at that time, coaching away from her for weeks at a time. However High Mannequin was an extended grind for them. McKey says the complete solid was instructed to not communicate to one another in any respect until cameras had been rolling, and telephone calls to Sam had been rare and really quick.

It felt like anyone had caught their relationship behind the freezer for some time. “They’d are available as soon as per week and hand us all a cellular phone, and all of us needed to take turns,” she says.

She gained the present, and their relationship survived. However modeling was extra of one thing she occurred to be good at, versus in her soul. She needed to be wherever Sam was, they usually needed to get married and transfer to California and begin a household.

California in the end wasn’t for them. They did not like how densely populated it was, and Alvey mentions the California taxes an estimated 74 instances in dialog. They each determined they needed to discover a large chunk of land someplace with decrease taxes and the house to construct their very own unofficial zoo, with a lot of children and animals.

First they’d Reagan (now 9 years previous). Then got here Ival (7), Crosby (6), Ali (3), Alister (nearly 3) after which Evander (now 2 months previous). They seek advice from Alister and Ali as twins, however they’re really a couple of weeks aside. Proper earlier than McKey had Alister, the household bought licensed to foster, they usually introduced child Ali into their dwelling.

The van experience will get just a little harrowing as Sam describes bringing dwelling Ali at 3 days previous, fostering her for a couple of weeks after which submitting paperwork to formally undertake her. Six months later, earlier than the final adoption listening to, a distant relative got here ahead and made a custody declare. The Alveys’ legal professional warned them that adoption may be an unpredictable, grueling authorized course of, so despite the fact that they had been on the 1-yard line, it was unimaginable to foretell in the event that they’d win or lose the case.

The choose in the end dominated for Sam and McKey, and Ali got here dwelling with them for good. Sam had begun recreation planning to flee the nation to Mexico Metropolis, the place he’d fought a couple of instances and fallen in love with the neighborhood. “I by no means misplaced religion,” Sam says. “However simply the potential for dropping her, I began excited about shifting. She was our daughter.”

Now they’ve what they at all times needed, and it certain looks as if they’re residing their goals. Their plan is to get licensed to foster children in Tennessee, and McKey says she has no plans to cease having children herself, both.

They’ve the proper demeanors to have 64 residing beings beneath their care. The scene is nonstop potential chaos, with lacking footwear and forgotten toothbrushes and frequent bawling. However their chill vibe is palpable, so the youngsters by no means appear to have meltdowns. The time period for the alternative of helicopter dad and mom is “free vary dad and mom,” and also you could not discover a higher time period for Sam and McKey out right here in Tennessee.

There may be some melting, although. McKey leans ahead from her seat by the van door as a result of Reagan lets her know that Alister’s total Klondike has simply slowly melted throughout him, throughout his garments, throughout his automotive seat, inexperienced ooze dripping down onto the van flooring. It seems like a melted-down Shrek.

She scrubs him down as a lot as she will be able to as she hovers over two van seats, throughout Reagan’s lap. She would not appear to even really feel the pure urge felt by, oh, 100% of oldsters to groan and snipe on the child for splattering chocolate and inexperienced goo throughout. The one factor she mentions comes after she slides again into her seat and realizes why it had been so loud within the van for the previous hour. Seems, that door she was sitting towards the complete time wasn’t really closed.

She calmly asks Sam to tug over so she will be able to shut the door and perhaps, you understand, not plummet out of the van going 70 mph.

“Simply… when you’ll be able to,” she says.

A mile or two later, Alvey pulls over and McKey slides the door closed as soon as, then once more, simply to make certain, after which it is again onto the interstate.

ALVEY IS HOME BY HIMSELF on a June afternoon when the sky will get darkish. Like, “The Wizard of Oz” darkish. And quick. It is not a kind of storms that’s on the way in which — it did not exist. Then it did. Now it is right here.

The timber and bushes in his yard begin to sway after which they only lean again because the wind pushes them down. Raindrops begin to land exhausting sporadically like anyone’s flicking the facet of a 2-liter bottle time and again. Within the entrance yard, the youngsters’ trampoline seems prefer it may get trampolined up and into the air.

Alvey bolts out into the yard and begins to spherical up chickens. He lately started letting them outdoors the pen, so they do not enterprise far, slowly exploring the yard a couple of extra toes each day. However they nonetheless hustle round and round and round as Alvey tries to herd them, and at last, he will get all 33 into the pen. “I’ve seen the film Tornado,” Alvey says. “I do not need the chickens to blow away.”

Oh, wait, make that 32. There’s one hen who simply meanders round after which darts away, and Alvey cannot do something about it. It is amusing to observe a man who earlier within the day was capable of management each inch of sparring towards 250-pound black belts now fail so miserably as he chases one hen. Alvey ultimately shrugs and provides up. His free-range parenting fashion applies to the chickens, too.

The storm is formally right here, rain blasting down now in large, highly effective waves. That they had a twister within the space a couple of weeks in the past, and the circumstances appear ripe for one more. So Alvey picks up the tempo. The geese and geese all exit on the water, and the cats and canines have made their means into the home.

All that is left is the horses… and the three hateful sheep. They do not appear frightened in any respect, wandering round collectively close to one another like a basketball staff with two facilities and three level guards. The sky is downright scary at this level.

He runs by the barn and out into the sphere, and the sheep scatter on the sight of their arch enemy. He rushes over to the horses and pulls one in, which leads the second horse to observe. The sheep watch from afar however in the end scurry over close to the doorway to the barn. The barn door is blowing so exhausting he thinks it would fly proper off and head off towards Alabama.

The horses drift contained in the barn, and the sheep do their common perplexing routine. They inch nearer and nearer towards the horses, whilst their evil nemesis stands by. Alvey is hoping they’re going to hustle so he can get out of the 50 mph gusts presently blowing throughout his property.

Perhaps it was worry of the storm, or maybe the sheep are warming as much as Alvey. However two of the three break right into a full-on dash together with the horses. The third wavers for a bit, however he would not grasp again for lengthy. Proper about when Alvey goes to surrender on him and lock down the barn, the third sheep gallops in.

As Alvey closes their barn door, he is soaking moist and nonetheless largely despised by the sheep. However he is smiling, as a result of one way or the other it appears like he lastly bought a cut up resolution to go his means.

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