Mixed martial artist, pornographic actor, convicted felon: Bellator welterweight War Machine is all of the above, and his inability to function as a regular human being has made him into one of MMA’s most shunned – yet colorful – personalities.
Formerly known by the more pedestrian moniker of Jon Koppenhaver, War Machine is scheduled to return to the cage at Bellator 96, over eighteen months removed from his last professional mixed martial arts bout. Such a long layoff (punctuated by a second stint in prison) might normally lead to doubts about a fighter’s physical and mental readiness, but the 31-year-old California native has demonstrated many times in the past that he is game bred. Truth be told, if you’re able to look past his personal struggles and only focus on War Machine the fighter, you might find that he’s exactly type of competitor that fans should want to see and support.
In order for MMA to keep growing in popularity, it needs fighters who are willing to go out and “kill or be killed”, so to speak. Back in the Pride days, Wanderlei Silva made a career out of inflicting as much violence as possible on his opponents, employing a vicious Muay Thai attack and a propensity for head stomps and soccer kicks. Perennial UFC lightweight contender Joe Lauzon has racked up a whopping 11 “of the Night” performance bonuses in his 14-fight tenure with the promotion, with all of his wins coming via stoppage. And love him or hate him, War Machine exemplifies this same rugged, dogfighting mentality: in 16 professional fights, he’s only been to a decision one time and has 12 wins by way of knockout or submission.
So what’s the takeaway here? Am I saying that Koppenhaver is a victim, an unfortunate soul who has been persecuted and misunderstood by a cruel world? Not at all; there’s a laundry list of things not to like about the guy. But when the cage door closes, you know you’re going to see heart and determination in spades. Jon Koppenhaver’s tenacity impressed us all those years ago on Spike TV, and as long as he’s still willing to go out and put on a show for the fans, we should respect his fighting spirit.