Home MMA Bellator War Machine’s Violent Past Filled With Second Chances

War Machine’s Violent Past Filled With Second Chances


The writing was on the wall. It was in homophobic slurs, in sexist tweets, and, ultimately, in multiple assault convictions.

War Machine’s virulent past resurfaced over the weekend and nearly claimed his ex-girlfriend’s life.

Jon Koppenhaver never shied away from discussing his turbulent childhood. His mother was a drug addict and his father died while Koppenhaver, 13-years-old at the time, tried to resuscitate him.

Mixed martial arts was his outlet.

Koppenhaver- who legally changed his name to War Machine-thrived in his UFC debut, receiving Knockout of the Night honors for his KO of Jared Rollins in December 2007. His loss to Yoshiyuki Yoshida five months later would be his last in an Octagon.

War Machine was released after stating UFC middleweight Evan Tanner’s death was a suicide. His claim that Tanner went to the desert to kill himself was unfounded, yet War Machine stood by the assumption.

He signed with Bellator but was subsequently released for implying Barack Obama should be assassinated. After bouncing around various independent promotions from 2009-11, War Machine re-signed with Bellator and expected to debut at Bellator 63, but was sentenced to a one-year prison term for assaulting a female bartender in Pacific Beach, Calif.

“I’ve made some stupid mistakes in my life, War Machine told the presiding judge, as reported by a local NBC affiliate. “I’m not a bad person. I’ve tried the hard way my whole life. It’s not working. I’m done with that.”

War Machine was arrested multiple times in the years preceding his prison sentence. Once in 2007 for beating up a Las Vegas man and again in 2008 for a similar offense.

Just as startling as War Machine’s egregious acts is the fact that so many gave him second and third chances.

Bellator knew of past convictions and of pending litigation-they signed War Machine days before his 2011 sentencing- and still took the risk. The promotion essentially gave him a slap on the wrist.

Last summer, War Machine tweeted that he had “just raped” his girlfriend, Christy Mack. Mack downplayed it, War Machine said the post was taken out of context, and former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney downplayed the comment, saying “I remain hopeful that Jon will learn from his mistake, redeem himself and become a better man for it and I would like to give him that chance.”

More than anything it set a precedent that War Machine was just being “War Machine.” He talked a big game but would never go as far as to hurt a woman, especially his girlfriend.

Mack’s gruesome pictures proved otherwise.

Late Friday night, War Machine allegedly beat Mack and her unnamed friend inside of her Las Vegas home. In a statement released on her Twitter page, Mack says her ex undressed her, broke her nose and ribs, and nearly raped her. Mack escaped and found salvation at a neighbor’s house.

In a series of tweets following the incident, War Machine-who has a $10,000 reward out for his arrest-says the situation was a misunderstanding. “I’m not a bad guy,” he said on the first of three posts. “I went to surprise my gf, help her set her show and to give her and engagement ring and ended up fighting for my life.”

The ex-Bellator fighter went on to say police would “never give me fair play” and “one day the truth will come out.”

Therein lies the problem; too many have given War Machine fair play. His arrogance is what draws attention. It’s why Bellator brough him back amid legal troubles. They simply chose to sweep the problem under the rug.

Only Mack and her friend have the right to play the victim card. If War Machine pleads for forgiveness Mack and MMA promotions won’t be as forgiving this time around.