Sam Alvey is all smiles at light heavyweight heading into UFC Utica, where he’s expecting Gian Villante to come in ready.
Smile’n Sam Alvey heads into UFC Utica fresh off a knockout finish over Marcin Prachnio at UFC on FOX 28. In Utica, the current light heayweight, who so far has taken to 205lbs in the UFC like a fish to water, will look to make it two in a row against Gian Villante.
Alvey spoke to Cageside Press ahead of the fight, and addressed fighting at 205, his goals in the weight class, and even Chuck Liddell and other older fighters coming out of retirement.
First up, however, Alvey’s win in February, his first finish since 2016. “It felt great,” Alvey said of the knockout. “It was the first full camp I’d had for a while. And it paid off.” Key to his success in Orlando was the fact that Alvey went into the fight with “no injuries,” plus a “good camp, [and] a lot of training partners.” Which allowed the Team Quest fighter to prove to himself that he still had the power to get the job done. “I had to go up a weight class to do it, but it made me feel pretty good about myself,” he admitted.
“The camp is way easier when you don’t have to cut fifty pounds. I’m just cutting about thirty pounds now, and it’s made life so much easier.”
While Prachnio (who we spoke with Alvey about back in February) wasn’t the most well-known fighter among UFC fans, followers of his former home, ONE Championship, recognize him as a threat. Alvey agreed, saying “I watched all of his fights a couple of times from ONE. He’s fought some real studs over there, his takedown defense was good, his knockout power was always there. So I really am proud of that victory.”
It was a great way to kick off his run at 205lbs in the UFC. While Alvey had competed in the weight class previously, that was outside the promotion. As to whether Alvey is sticking around the weight class, well it seems like that’s the plan. “I’m leaning toward staying,” he told us. “The camp is way easier when you don’t have to cut fifty pounds. I’m just cutting about thirty pounds now, and it’s made life so much easier. But I’m still game to go back to 85 if the UFC ever wants or if there’s a fight that makes sense.”
As for a potential new weight class at 195lbs, that’s not something that would make Sam smile. “If they got rid of 70, made it 75 and added 65, that’s the only weight class it would make sense for,” he explained. “If you add a 95 or a 220 or anything else, you’re just going to dilute the other weight classes. If you put a 95, you’re going to get half the 205’ers, which is already kind of a thin division.”
“You’ll get half of those guys cutting down,” he continued, and “half of the middleweights going up. You’d just wind up with three weak weight classes.”
Alvey makes the comparison to the two most recent additions on the women’s side, flyweight and featherweight. “They introduced the 125 and 145 female divisions, and there’s not enough people to make the division a viable division,” he said. “They’ll have a 25 champ and everything, but it’s not going to have as much triumph behind it as 15 and 35 will.”
Asked whether he thought those divisions would struggle for a while, Alvey said he believed that they would “There’s not that many girls that fight. It’s a growing sport,” he suggested. “Ronda Rousey was the first to introduce it to the world, and you’re starting to get some girls to do it. But if you even look at who’s on the roster, in both weight classes [flyweight and featherweight, which recently held tryouts for TUF 28], the roster’s filled with .500 records, or close to .500 records. It’s just a new division.”
It’s important to note that Alvey isn’t critical of women in the sport. It’s just part of the natural development of the weight classes, something the men have already gone through. “It’s kind of like when the UFC first started out with the men,” he pointed out. “There wasn’t nearly the amount of talent in the world that there is now. Now it’s 20 years later or 30 years later and you’ve had time to develop it.”
Getting back to Alvey’s own weight class, at 205lbs, well, “it’s not the weight cut that makes me decide” to stick around in the division. Instead, “it’s the opportunity.” Key to making the most of that opportunity is a win over Villante on Friday. So what is he expecting? A fully prepared Gian Villante.
“Back at 85, I fought a few guys who didn’t want to fight me,” Alvey said. “They wanted to kick my legs and just outpoint me. I don’t expect that out of him.”
“I think he’s going to have a decent game plan,” he anticipated, “whether it’s standing or taking me down. He’s going to come in ready to perform.”
With both men capable of finding the finish, Alvey added that “it’s always my goal to not let it go three rounds. And I heard him in an interview, and it’s his goal to not let this thing go three rounds.”
“I’m sure one of us will be right,” he added with a laugh.
The fight against Villante comes just over three months out from UFC Orlando (UFC on FOX 28). For most fighters, that’s a fairly quick return, but Sam Alvey is the man tied for the UFC record for most fights in a twelve month period (at six, along with Donald Cerrone). However, fighting at that pace has its drawbacks, and full camps mean more to the fighter than ever.
“This is fine,” he told us of the date. “Sooner would have been great, but I really wanted to keep my six to eight week camp.”
“For a long time, I was pushing them out to three or four weeks,” he said of his fight camps. “Or injured.” The goal, however, it to “make that effort of climbing the rankings, getting to that title shot, fighting at the best Sam level there is.” For that, full camps are a much better option.
Plus, “based on my last short notice fight,” the short notice bouts are getting harder as time goes on. “That one was rough. Hindsight is 20-20 on that one, I made a mistake going to Poland. But I was pretty sure I was going to win, right up until I didn’t win.”
As for a win against Villante, it’ll be “a third round submission,” Alvey joked. Don’t bet on that.
“Juice them out of their gills, more or less. I can’t wait to see Vitor, or what do they call him, TRVitor, I can’t wait to see him again.” — Sam Alvey, on letting older fighters compete
Talk then turned to the return of another light heavyweight: Chuck Liddell. Liddell announced his intent to return to action just a few days prior to our chat with Alvey. We asked Smile’n Sam whether he thought MMA needed a senior’s circuit. It’s something he could see, although maybe not under that label. “I don’t think there should be a senior’s circuit per se, labelled that,” he said. “But I love what Bellator’s doing. They have the senior’s circuit, they have the old guys fighting, they just don’t call it a senior’s circuit.”
“I would love to watch them fight,” Alvey admitted. And he’d rather they not go through USADA. “Juice them out of their gills, more or less. I can’t wait to see Vitor, or what do they call him, TRVitor, I can’t wait to see him again. I’d love to see it. Do it for the fans. The guys love fighting.”
“For me personally, I can’t imagine a time when I’m not fighting,” he said, “but I know I’m going to get there eventually. I’m hoping I’ve got another fifteen years left, but we’ll see. I would love to see it, I would love to see them go at it, whether or not it’s called the senior’s league, or just getting to watch the fights.”
Heading into UFC Utica, while Alvey is well prepared for Gian Villante, he’s not sure what comes next. “I’m still looking,” he said of a potential opponent. “I usually decide that the week of the fight.”
“I’m always open to suggestions, so if you or any of your listeners want to tweet me, let me know who they want to see me go against next — I’d love to break into that top ten,” he said. “I got close at 185, but I’m going to get it here at 205.”
Be sure to send Alvey your suggestion for a callout via @smilensam on Twitter, and don’t miss Sam Alvey opening up the UFC Utica main card against Gian Villante. The fight airs live Friday, June 1 on Fox Sports 1 (TSN in Canada), from the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York.