The Ultimate Fighter reality show is a very tricky proposition. On one hand, an up-and-coming fighter can find himself launched into the spotlight and a very successful career in the UFC. That is the dream, and that is where the season winners typically end up. However, each season only produces one to two victors. What happens to everyone else?

Some fighters will put on such a great performance that, despite losing while “in the house,” they are still offered a UFC contract. Other fighters will put on performances that may have been impressive, but the UFC brass just doesn’t see them as a fit. Of course, every season will produce the bottom rung, which are the individuals that end up putting on lackluster performances and end up as regional journeymen at best. Of the 19 traditional seasons, plus all of the international seasons, season 16 was no different.

In early 2012, Zuffa LLC, parent company of TUF and the UFC, brought together heavyweights Shane Carwin and Roy “Big Country” Nelson to coach a stable of 16 welterweights, many of which were previous interviewees of the show. During the 16 fights to make it into the house, “Smilin’” Sam Alvey earned his spot with the second-fastest finish of that round – a 47-second knockout of Leo Kuntz. While welterweight was not his ideal weight, he felt he could starve himself just long enough to make a run at the TUF title.

Alvey was one of the more seasoned fighters coming into the 16th season of TUF. He entered the show with a 19-4 record, including appearances in Bellator and King of the Cage. His performance put him at the top of the heap, and he ended up as Shane Carwin’s top pick. His next fight was aired in the third episode, which he dropped by decision, ending his run for the contract. As the season progressed, Alvey kept his head down and, upon conclusion, was not brought into the promotion.

Every fighter who enters TUF has a dream of one day fighting for the UFC, but not every person has the drive and, frankly, the guts to work hard and earn a spot on the most coveted roster in MMA. Alvey was not content being a journeyman or a sub-par fighter. He knew he had what it takes to be at the top.

Sam Alvey (top) punishes his opponent (Jacob Bos/Sherdog)

Sam Alvey (top) punishes his opponent (Jacob Bos/Sherdog)

After his TUF run, Alvey was brought into the Maximum Fighting Championship as a middleweight contender, which is his ideal weight class. After dropping his MFC debut to Elvis Mutapcic for the vacant middleweight title in Feb. 2013, he went on an amazing run in the promotion. First, he earned a third-round TKO over Jay Silva. Then, Alvey followed that win up with a fifth-round TKO over Jason South to earn the again-vacant MFC middleweight strap and defended that title last May with a fourth-round knockout of Wes Swofford.

All of the wins that Smilin’ Sam has strung together in the last year have been wildly exciting fights, and the crowd is never left feeling short-changed. Alvey has enjoyed every performance, and he loves putting on a great show for the fans. The Swofford fight was no exception.

“It was a great fight,” said Alvey in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “It was rough going into the fourth round, but I re-gathered myself and got the knockout.”

Sam Alvey has been a busy, busy guy in 2014. Prior to his successful title defense against Swofford, he had a kickboxing match in May, where he knocked out WCK Muay Thai heavyweight champ Sergio Pique in a non-title bout. His last MMA fight was on May 30, in which he beat Gerald Meerschaert in his home state of Wisconsin at an NAFC event, and he followed that with a second WCK kickboxing match in June.

In a previous interview with The MMA Corner in May, Alvey stated he was planning on taking a break after his June kickboxing match, following four fight camps in the first half of the year. However, when a call comes in, this guy cannot turn down an offer.

“If somebody wants me to fight, I’ll always say yes,” admitted Alvey. “Donald Cerrone – he’s one of my favorite fighters – always says yes when he’s offered a fight. I’m looking to do the same thing. If somebody offers, I’ll take the fight.”

Well, somebody offered, and this was an offer he could not refuse.

In mid-June, the UFC matchmakers came knocking and Alvey eagerly answered. They finally wanted to bring him onto the roster, and his first challenge is set to take place this Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 47, live from the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine. Alvey has no problem putting that break on hold.

“It was a week after my last kickboxing fight,” Alvey explained. “I was planning on getting fat and enjoying my wins, but they called and said I had eight weeks. So, I got back on the scale and started working.”

While Alvey may have been very successful over the last year, his next opponent is in a completely different stratum than his recent competition.

Tom “Kong” Watson is a tough-as-nails Englishman who has been training at the Jackson-Winkeljohn camp in Albuquerque. Like Alvey, most of his stoppage wins come by knockout, but he does have submission skills and can go the distance if need be. In fact, most of Watson’s recent fights have ended in decision, including three of his four Octagon appearances.

Alvey (R) delivers a right hand (Jacob Bos/Sherdog)

Alvey (R) delivers a right hand (Jacob Bos/Sherdog)

“I love the match-up,” Alvey intimated. “He’s a stud. Even with the losses that he’s had, especially the split decisions, they really could have gone either way. He’s got to be one of the toughest guys in the class, so hopefully he comes out ready to fight. I’m going to be looking for an ‘of the night’ bonus – either knockout, submission, or fight of the night. I’m going out there to put on a show that people want to see.

“He’s tough. This dude looks like he’s put together. Pretty much, him touching me is the biggest challenge. If he touches me, I might be in trouble.”

This match-up is a tough debut for Alvey. Both men are durable fighters who come to bang, and this bout has “fight of the night” written all over it. While Alvey doesn’t want to drop his UFC debut, and could easily have opted for a grappler with a soft chin, he knows that an exciting performance is what fans and the UFC brass want to see. This is the perfect fight from that perspective.

Smilin’ Sam Alvey played the TUF game, and it didn’t go his way. However, he didn’t drop off the map and fade into mediocrity. He stayed relevant, picked up some nice wins, and found himself on the docket to face a tough challenger in Tom Watson. Normally, an interview with Alvey will highlight his life as a family man with his daughter and expectant wife, who was the winner of her own reality show. However, in terms of the last two years, this is not a “normal” Sam Alvey fight. He finally made it into the Octagon, and, on Saturday night, fans are going to see what his smile is all about.

“People know that I always come out for an exciting fight. I’m always going out there for a ‘fight of the night’ performance. I’m going to put my self out there. I’m going to go out there and leave it all on the line.”

Alvey would like to thank his wife, daughter, family, friends, fans and all of his supporters, including Dan Henderson’s Team Quest and Dynamic Fitness. He would like to specifically thank his coaches Daniel Woirin, Bryan Harper, and Ricardo Feliciano. He would also like to thank his sponsors: A to Z Flood, Inc., Effortless Office, and Omni Funds, Inc. Follow Sam on Twitter: @SmilenSam