No one needs to tell Jon Koppenhaver what it means to hit rock bottom. After being raised by a substance-abusing mother and spending over a year in state prison, “War Machine” has seen it all. Only 29 years old and coming off a dominating TKO victory over former Bellator and UFC fighter Roger Huerta, the talented welterweight is ready to resurrect his MMA career by joining Bellator Fighting Championships.
“Jon’s not had an easy road,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney. “And there’s no doubt he’s made some poor choices, but after having had conversations with him since his release, he really seems to understand where and why things went wrong and wants to make them right. And, when he’s focused on nothing but training and fighting, he’s a talented and exciting fighter. I hope he’s able to turn this second chance into something positive.”
Born and raised in California, Koppenhaver has dealt with personal demons nearly his entire life. Watching his mother abuse drugs was common for Koppenhaver, which eventually led to him leaving home to live with his biological father. Soon after the move was made, Koppenhaver’s father suffered a heart attack and died in his son’s arms.
“My past has kind of shaped and molded who I’ve become, but the mistakes I’ve made in the past have definitely made me realize that I have to avoid certain situations in order to be the type of person I want to be,” War Machine said.
Fighting certainly has shaped Koppenhaver’s life, both in and out of the cage. After a 5-1 start to his professional MMA career, War Machine began a downward spiral that included numerous altercations in bars and nightclubs, which eventually led to his year-long incarceration. Originally signed by Bellator in 2009, War Machine made disparaging political comments that led to his release before he could step foot inside the Bellator cage. Now back with Bellator, War Machine realizes this is a chance not everyone gets.
“It’s like I hit the rewind button,” War Machine said. “I pressed rewind and now I have a chance to get my life back on track. It feels great. Not everyone gets this kind of opportunity. I’m just stoked to be back in the mix here with Bellator. I didn’t get released from Bellator because I sucked. I got released because I was making poor decisions in my life. Right now I’m just out to show the world that I do belong here fighting the best with Bellator.” With the recent win over Huerta, War Machine is aware of what is on the line with Bellator, and is ready for this opportunity.
“I feel like I belong fighting with the best fighters in the world and Bellator has a bunch of them,” said War Machine. “I’m ready to fight the best guys again, and now I have that chance. I’m excited for the chance to prove myself and make up for a lot of the stupid stuff I’ve said and done in the past. I love my family and my teammates and I want to make them all proud of me. I want to show them what I’m truly capable of. I know there are a lot of kids and people I care about there watching me so I need to be a lot more careful about some of the choices I make. I just want to make everyone proud of me.”