UFC middleweight Sam Alvey is always smiling, hence the nickname "Smilin'", but with a three-fight win streak in the Octagon, he's got a lot of reasons to be grinning.
"I've been getting hit up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Just everything," Alvey told The MMA Hour's Ariel Helwani of his recent surge in terms of fan visibility. "It's been almost all positive lately. My wife, she's huge into the forums. She's been reading the forums out loud to me every night. It was a great fight. It was a good opportunity. I'm very happy with the outcome."
He's referencing his win in Australia on May 10 where he knocked out Australian judoka Dan Kelly in Adelaide in just 49 seconds into the first round. It's the third fight Alvey's won in a row in the UFC, all of them coming by way of first-round stoppage.
Alvey says that's helped enormously with getting positive praise and more attention, something he's not used to in his mixed martial arts career, whether in person or online.
"The Internet's a dangerous place," he noted. "More people than not, to this day, have been anti-Sam Alvey on the Internet. But it doesn't bother me. It's the Internet for a reason. People need a place to vent and I'm happy at least that they're talking about me whether it's positive or negative."
The win streak has caused many to take a first look at Alvey as they're curious to learn more about the fighter. Up first: what's up with the nickname and where did it come from?
"At least my entire fighting career and I have to imagine before then," Alvey says of how long he's carried Smilin' as his nickname. "What's not to be happy about? I got air in my lungs and I get to punch someone in the face. It's a good day in Alvey Town."
The Team Quest fighter says the act of smiling is something he's been known for for more than just his fighting career.
"I'd have to look back in my yearbook, but I might've been voted Best Smile. That might be in the yearbook still. My parents did something right. I've just been a happy kid, happy guy my whole life."
Nicknames are nice, but Alvey's results in the cage are something to behold and take seriously. It's not as if Alvey ever did poorly in MMA, but until recently, he wasn't doing this well. Something's different now. According to him, it's everything in life lining up in the way it hadn't before.
"I'm finding that groove," he says. "I've got a lot of fights and MMA's kind of a streak sport. Luckily, I've been blessed never to have a streak on my losing side, but I'm hot right now. I'm going to keep staying hot. I'll make that run for the title over time.
"I practice as hard now as I ever had," he continued. "I have had a couple of really good camps. My head coach, Dan Henderson, my fights have kind of been lining up with his, so I've gotten to really piggyback off who he brings in and who he's training with and getting to work out with him is a blessing in its own. I've been hitting that stride with training, with camps and fighting."
But there's another key ingredient to Alvey's success and that's his better half. Some might know her from her stint as a winner on season 11 of America's Next Top Model, Mckey Sullivan. As many have noticed, she's in the corner for every one of Alvey's fights, something Alvey says is no accident or recent turn of events.
"She has been in every corner of mine since I started fighting," Alvey noted. "I tell everyone. It started off, if she was in my corner, she was a free ticket in. We didn't have to buy anything. She took it more serious than I did. To this day, she knows more about the guys I'm fighting than I do.
"She's in the meetings. She's game planning with us. She's working at home. She is the one who kinds of choreographs how it's going to be. She's calls [my fights], down to the round I finish the guys in. She's a gift to me camp."
Alvey claimed she's watching him practice at least three times a week and even trains a bit herself when he's got the time.
"She has the best hand wraps in the entire industry. She will wrap a hand better and more soundly than anyone ever," he claimed. "People think it's because I hit hard. No, it's because of her hand wraps."
And that's what brings everything full circle. According to Alvey, his post-fight speech after knocking out Kelly where he called Elias Theodorou was nothing more than an elaborate plan pushed by his wife and approved by his team.
"I said in my post-fight speech I want to fight the guys I like and I really mean it. My wife, she's actually the one who does more of the research than I do," he said.
"She says, 'Well, how about this guy?' I'll watch some footage and I'll be like, 'I like this match-up. I think we match up well. I think our records go well with one another.' Then I'll send it off to my coaches and see what they think."
Alvey claimed "Elias almost slipped through the cracks," as they weren't sure who they were going to call out next. But after Alvey's wife spotted the Canadian and showed footage of him to Alvey, he knew it could be a good fit.
"'This is great'," Alvey said he thought to himself after watching footage his wife prepared. "Then we were looking at his website and thinking this was the match-up. And his website says he has the best self-proclaimed hair in MMA."
"'I'm going to make sure he takes this fight'. Because you know every fighter has the option to say no," Alvey said he thought to himself.
But like everything else more recently in his career, with a bit of luck, a lot of charm and a little help from his wife, it's all helped him to realize the perfect angle to get the fight he wants (even if UFC hasn't yet approved). It's also the sort of thing that's helped make him a rising fan favorite.
"You call a man's hair into question and you at least catch his attention," Alvey said.