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Sam Alvey admits quirky personality 'might' hold him back in the UFC

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Sam Alvey doesn't have a nickname like "Killa" or "Headbussa." He's called "Smile'n Sam."

Alvey doesn't talk crap about his opponents. He makes jokes and wears spray tan during his fights.

There's nothing about Alvey that screams cagefighter. He admits that, in some ways, not having some kind of perceived killer instinct could hold him back in the UFC. But he also doesn't really care.

"It might," Alvey told "But I'm fine with that. People always underestimate me, because I'm aware I don't give off the fighter persona very well. But I train harder than all of them."

Alvey has the biggest test of his career Saturday against Derek Brunson at UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Saint Preux in Nashville. "Smile'n Sam" has knocked out his last three opponents in the first round, quite the feat in a very good middleweight division, and is looking for more.

Don't let the facial expressions and funny post-fight interviews fool you. Alvey is extremely serious about his career. He said he has seen many positive articles about him, but almost all of them insinuate he'll never be a top-10 caliber fighter.

"I'll prove them wrong," Alvey said. "I belong in the top 10. I've rolled with some of the top 10 already and I've held my own. Shoot, Dan Henderson and I, we punch each other on a daily basis. I've won some rounds, he's won some rounds."

Alvey, who trains out of Henderson's Team Quest in Temecula, Calif., thinks he's actually better than just top 10. He wants more.

"Someday I will be the champion," he said. "Mark my words. I don't know when it will happen, but it'll happen. I train too hard for it not to become a reality."

Alvey (26-6) is coming off a 49-second knockout of Daniel Kelly in May. In that fight and during weigh-ins, he got into a little trouble for wearing a non-UFC approved sponsor in the Octagon -- on his bare chest. Alvey, 29, had the brand Perfect Tan on his chest via, well, a tan. He didn't find out the UFC didn't like that until after the fight and he thinks it cost him a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.

"I re-watched the event," he said. "I definitely think I was one of the bonuses. ... I was happy with the performance. But the UFC was not happy with my Perfect Tan."

Alvey said he won't do something like that again, although he said he was just trying to be funny. His post-fight interviews are some of the most entertaining -- and off-the-wall -- in MMA. After beating Kelly, Alvey said he only wants to fight his friends, so they can get paid by punching each other in the face. The Wisconsin native has noticed increased fan support, but of course that also has to do with his exciting finishes.

"People are loving my fights, they're loving my post-fight speeches," Alvey said. "I'm just trying to keep it going. I'm riding a wave right now and I'm loving every second of it."

Alvey was pretty surprised he was a significant underdog against Brunson, who is as much as a 3-to-1 favorite on some sportsbooks.

"I thought I had done better in my UFC career than that," Alvey said. "But I know he's a superstar. He's good at fighting and that's what we're doing. It's going to be a tough fight. I just rest soundly knowing that I'm going to win some of my friends a lot of money."

Maybe some of his growing number of fans, too. Alvey might not fit the UFC's preferred mold of a stone-cold assassin, but he's pretty good at fighting. And so far, he has given the people what they want.

"I know what I can do," Alvey said. "I know what I'm good at and I know how much better I can get at certain things. I'm really looking forward to getting to prove what I'm worth in front of millions and millions of fans."