Home News MMA War Machine: The Other Side of the Story, His Past and Present

War Machine: The Other Side of the Story, His Past and Present

“War Machine” in court in August 2010.

You know the old saying.  “There’s two sides to every story.”  Well, the one side we really haven’t heard from is that of Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver.  Yet, just after the conclusion of War Machine’s hearing in Ventura County earlier today, his attorney, Brandon Sua, briefly addressed the media.

“The hardest thing for my client is seeing the responses from the media, the public. There’s been a lot of statements on one side [and] the media has done a good job of painting my client as a monster, but my client is not a monster. He is a good guy.”

Christy Mack made some extremely serious and detailed allegations and went even further by publicizing photos and her side of the story on Twitter.  No doubt, something did happen to her, and Koppnhaver’s erratic past has given much credence to her story.

In fact, this is not the first time that Koppenhaver was accused of assaulting an acquaintance or a stranger. But before we start judging, and yes that means you the reader as well, let’s look at a few things about his past, as reported by media, court records and his own interviews.

Koppenhaver, born November 30th, 1981, has had a history of altercations with law enforcement.  We decided to run a national search for criminal records and thus far our sources have only uncovered criminal violations that took place in the state of California, however we do know has had other conflicts with the law from prior reports by various news agencies.  That being said, due the the lack of arrest records and the fact that case records from San Diego have yet to be digitized,  we can conclude that, for the moment, the picture is somewhat incomplete.

Yet you cannot argue that rumor has matched reality when it comes to War Machine’s apparent in ability to make sound judgment calls or control his temper.  War Machine was born to a somewhat modest family.  His father, a Los Angeles Police Officer, and mother, a nurse, appeared (on the surface) to provide a somewhat stable atmosphere for a young child.  Yet, according to a candid expose from his participation in The Ultimate Fighter Season 6: Episode 8 Recap, at age 13, his father died of cardiac arrest where young Jon Koppenhaver unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate him by administering CPR.

In a Spike TV production, MMA Uncensored Live: Exclusive: Extended War Machine Interview (Part 1 of 2), it was disclosed that at some point (possibly shortly after his father’s death) his mother left her job as a Nurse and began to exhibit a drug addiction.  The impact on Koppnhaver’s family life was such that he would then be required to look after his younger brother and sister.

Later in August 2000, at age 18, Koppenhaver was sent to a military academy known as The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.  He attended for almost two years before being expelled for “poor behavior”.

This brings us to 2001, where Koppenhaver, now back in Simi Valley is getting into trouble with local law enforcement.  On April 13th, 2001, he was charged with forgery, possibly relating to credit card or check fraud.  The case was dismissed on May 16th of 2002.

But before he was even in the clear on the prior charge, on April 9th of 2002, Koppenhaver was charged with four additional violations in a separate incident by the Simi Valley Police Department:

  • PC 148(A)(1) – Misdemeanor (1 Count)
  • Resist, Obstruct, Delay Of Peace Officer Or Emt

  • PC 148.9(A) – Misdemeanor – (1 Count)
  • Giving False Information To A Police Officer

  • PC 243(B) – Misdemeanor – (2 Counts)
  • Battery On An Officer Or Medical Professional

All but one of the counts were dismissed.  The case was closed with one conviction on January 3rd 2003.  He plead guilty to the misdemeanor offense of giving false information to a police officer.  Without reviewing all the case notes we may never know what actually occurred but it’s entirely likely he was offered a plea bargain in exchange for expediting the trial.  And with this Jon Koppenhaver acquired what appeared to be his first misdemeanor offense at the ripe age of 21.

Many opinions circulate around circumstances such as those presented.  Is this a problem child, a degenerate, a hopeless person who will never amount to more than his record?  Or is this person a victim of circumstance?  There are strong arguments to support either position, however the fact is the consequences of one’s actions only allow for leniency should those passing judgement have the sympathy to do so.

Which brings us to 2007, where on September 7th War Machine was found guilty of striking a Las Vegas man in the face and choking him unconscious during a parking lot scuffle.  In a somewhat surprising display of leniency in February, 2008, he was only sentenced to three years of probation with 30 days of community service, avoiding the possible felony charge and accompanying prison time.  The charge remained on his record as a misdemeanor offense and oddly enough the victim in this case, Darren Zatkow (a non-competitive martial artist), did not want to jeopardize Koppenhaver’s career with the UFC (at the time) and asked only for $2,300 in restitution.

As a side note, the doctor that examined Mr. Zatkow days after the assault testified the victim sustained four fractures to his left eye socket.

Two more years pass and Koppenhaver was getting in trouble again.  This time, in San Diego, with his first felony assault conviction stemming from a fight at a Point Loma bar earlier in the year.  He was sentenced to one year in county jail, in administrative segregation, but actually ended up serving a total of two years for an unspecified preceding event.  After being released from San Diego’s George Bailey Detention Facility on October 29th 2012, with his UFC contract long since dissolved, he resumed his mixed martial arts career by signing on with Bellator MMA.

Fast forward 2 years.  August 8th 2014.  His now, and possibly then, ex-girlfriend Christy Mack reports a brutal assault allegedly perpetrated by Koppenhaver, now known formally as War Machine.  The details were gruesome and the fact that Mack herself publicized photos of her injuries and a letter recanting her recollection of the alleged assault the general media jumped all over the story.

Most were eager to conclude his guilt before they had even examined the evidence.  It could be said that Koppenhaver had set a precedent for himself.  That the mere hint of such a now “predictable” act would be enough to convict him of such a crime.  Adding substance to that assertion even Koppenhaver himself broadcasted Tweets claiming he didn’t believe he would get a fair trial.  That his only option would be to run.  And run he did.  For a few days, until he was finally apprehended by U.S. Marshals from a report of, yep you guessed it, assault on a petite woman in the parking lot of the hotel he had been staying in while evading arrest.

So where does that leave us?  Are there truly two sides to every story?  Certainly, though it remains to be seen just how far from each other these two sides might lay.

What about Christy Mack?  A noted porn star and a woman who willingly (for a time at least) associated herself with War Machine.  Is she in some way responsible for “instigating” these events?

There have been some who were vocal enough to conclude that as a reasonable perspective.  “Sons of Anarchy” star, Chuck Zito, recently retracted and apologized for statements alluding to the likelihood that he would have acted similarly to War Machine in such circumstances.  Besides that, any argument to the effect that her profession somehow compromises her status as a victim would and should be equally considered against War Machine’s career choices, which indeed has included pornography that he himself has starred in.

Courts have been known to give leniency to those who can claim they were guilty of a “crime of passion” rather than premeditated assault.  However, should Christy Mack’s story regarding the status of their relationship hold true then that argument would be very difficult to make.  Even if not, the nature of their relationship given their lifestyle would play heavily against a conventional argument for adultery, which would also dilute the crime of passion argument.

It’s rather likely that should Koppenhaver opt to attempt for a not guilty defense, he might be able to make a case for whether he was of sound mind.  But this is pure speculation.  Should it go to trial, a jury would likely be required for judgement to be passed.  Jury’s are unpredictable and sometimes what might seem as the most obvious, logical and plausible argument could never resonate with that particular jury.  In which case the verdict could go either way.

Given the fact the minimum (reported) sentence for the combined charges is 7 years, it may be very likely this never goes to trial.  If Koppenhaver considers the challenge of finding an impartial jury after all the media attention, he may opt for a plea bargain that includes as close to the minimum amount of required time possible.  Though the judge may not be willing to be as lenient this time around.

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Luca Rajabi
Luca has been passionate about martial arts and eastern philosophies since childhood. As an athlete, inventor and entrepreneur Luca founded SciFighting on the principal lessons learned from his life experience "fighting" to preserve his health and fitness. Although born with inherently poor and inconsistent health he pushed forward to learn as much as he could about the sciences of technology, medicine and mental health. Years of study, working with physicians and combined analysis finally began to bare fruit by his early twenties. Starting with Fencing, cross training and body building then moving to Boxing, Western Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiujitsu, Eskrima and an eclectic assortment of self defense techniques. Luca's core philosophy is that to win a battle every fighter must balance their mental and physical health. Luca has said that "With well developed technique, conditioning and mental focus a sound strategy will most often win over brute strength alone." It is in this spirit that he passionately advocates for the "Science of Fighting".