The following interview is not for the faint of heart.
It’s not for those with sensitive ears and is certainly, in no way, politically correct. War Machine [born: Jonathan Koppenhaver, 12-4] takes pride in the fact that no matter what the circumstance, he keeps true to himself…and with no apology, either. If this Bellator MMA warrior has an opinion, you’re going to hear about it, rated X or not. His name remains one of the most infamous in MMA today and, love him or hate him, no one can seem to get his name out of their mouths.
Read our one-on-one below where Jon opens up to me about everything: his upcoming fight in Bellator, his qualms with MMA sponsorships, the meaning behind his tattoos and his hard knocks as a kid. He even reveals the name of his current girlfriend and shares a few personal photos.
Hang on tight… it’s going to be one crazy ride.
Stephanie: Obviously you pay attention to the news and social media and you know that a lot of critics are saying that Bellator made a mistake signing you recently. How do you plan on proving them wrong, both inside and outside the cage?
War Machine: Well, it doesn’t even make sense what they said. How can they not sign me? There are only so many good MMA fighters that are out there and there’s only so many of those are marketable, you know? I don’t care how much people hate me or whatever, but I’m one of those marketable guys. What did I do so wrong? I f*cking robbed an old lady? I f*cking raped a kid? I’m an arch criminal? I got in a fight. I’m a fighter; that’s what fighters do. Everyone wants to talk shit, but they’re just a bunch of haters. I’m going to go in there and I’m going to fight. That’s what I do and how I make my money and it’s going to be me, you know? It’s their problem if they get sick and tired of seeing me on TV. It’s not my fault.
Stephanie: Do you think that you have a temper? Do people set you off easily?
War Machine: No. I actually have a great temper. It takes a lot to piss me off…I’ll get mad easy but I won’t get violent unless there’s a really good reason. Those guys that I hit, in real life, they deserved it; they deserved it a lot. They deserved it 100 percent; that’s why I don’t feel bad about it. The Somalian dude that was breaking into my car? I didn’t even touch him, so that shows my temper isn’t even that bad. I think most fighters would have beat him up.
Stephanie: Where are you training now?
War Machine: I train at a gym called ‘Und1sputed.” My jiu-jitsu coach is Baret Yoshida. He’s been my coach since 2006, so a long time. Then, I have a really good boxing coach named Joe Vargas. My teammates, I have a good bunch of up and coming guys like Herman Terrado and Nick Barnes; a bunch of tough, new guys. We go in there and we train hard. You have everything you need right there.
Stephanie: How many hours a day are you at the gym right now?
War Machine: You know, guys lie to you and they tell you they train eight hours a day; it’s not even possible, you know? People like to lie a lot. I train about four and a half hours a day: an hour and a half in the morning and an hour and a half at night…maybe 45 minutes in the afternoon. It just depends. I’m training full time; it’s a full time job.
Stephanie: Do you have anything you are trying to work on more specifically for your upcoming fight against Blas Avena?
War Machine: My boxing. I’m always going to be a ground person at heart. My weakness will always be as a striker, so I focus more on that. I’m trying to get that up to the highest level I can.
Stephanie: I was checking out your opponent’s record and I noticed a lot of his fights ended by TKO or knockouts. Is that why are you focusing more on your standup?
War Machine: Yeah, him losing that way.
Stephanie: I saw he won his last fight by knockout in the first round…
War Machine: Yeah, he won his last fight by knockout. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu and he’s basically good, but his record kind of sucks. He’s a straight jiu-jitsu guy and he doesn’t stay up on his feet a lot. Now, he’s been training more standup.
Stephanie: Will you try and keep it standing and avoid taking it to the ground?
War Machine: Besides the black belt, [the fact that he is good at jiu-jitsu] doesn’t mean nothing to me because I train with guys [that are] better than him every single day. I’m not worried about it; I’m a better wrestler, so I’ll be on top. I’m not worried anywhere, on the feet or on the ground, but I know he’s not as good on his feet so I am going to try and exploit that a little bit. That doesn’t mean I won’t take him down, though. I’ll probably take him down, too. Wherever I feel he’s the least comfortable, that’s where I want to have him.
Stephanie: You don’t see it going a certain way at all?
War Machine: Just that I win. I don’t like to have a game plan or try and visualize certain sh*t happening because the first thing that happens when you do that is you go in there and whatever you expect him to do, it’ll go the opposite and it f*cks up your whole game plan and ruins everything you had planned. I go in there and just fight to win. He has to fight me; I don’t care what he’s going to do. That’s his problem. When you’re new, like when I was younger, I was like, “Alright…” I’d sit there all night long and was like, “He comes out and throws a jab, and I’ll do this. He comes out and throws a kick, I’m going to do this…” That’s f*cking bullsh*t. You never really know what’s going to happen. You go in there and you fight and your training takes over and the fight happens, man. That’s it.
Stephanie: Iron Man 3 just recently came out and they have a character in the movie named James Rhodes. He calls himself the “Iron Patriot,” but in the comics he was actually “War Machine.” Is that where you got your name from?
War Machine: No. My buddy, my old mentor, Phil Baroni, he just named me that one day. I got these two tattoos and they’re, like, biomechanical; it’s like my skin’s tearing off like I’m a robot underneath, like I’m a machine. I don’t know, I was new; I was like 20-years-old, 21 and he was like, “We got to find you a nick name, man.” I said, “F*ck, I don’t know,” and then he came up with “War Machine,” so it stuck. I think that was just a coincidence because that was, like, an obscure comic. I actually didn’t find that out until recently that there was a “War Machine” comic. Plus, that guy is black anyway. I would never name myself after a black guy. If I wanted to be a comic guy, I would pick someone that looked like me.
Stephanie: You recently garnered a lot of press talking about MMA sponsorships on social media. What set that off? What was the original situation that made you upset?
War Machine: What set it off is that these guys that own the clothing companies are millionaires. My agent has a f*cking million dollar house on the beach, do you know what I mean? Everyone’s rich and all the fighters don’t have health insurance. We’re broke, we’re miserable. Right now, I have a torn ACL, I have a hernia, I’m busting my ass every f*cking day training…I’m going to fight on TV in front of a million people, these a**holes have the nerve to try and pay me $500 bucks to wear their shorts? Or $2 or $300 bucks for a t-shirt? It’s chump change. All these stupid fighters that have no balls to negotiate and accept all these bullsh*t, lowball offers. So, because five guys accepted $3 or $400 bucks to wear those shorts, now they have the balls to ask me to wear them for $500. No, it ain’t going to happen. It’s the fighters’ fault, because the fighters are so stupid. They’re so stupid and they’re so eager to get in there and fight and make a penny. They would take anything, you know? Not me, I won’t take anything; I won’t do it. I’ll have ten sponsors for $500 bucks each? I’ll just go out there with nothing on and make no money instead of wearing that sh*t. Everyone says, “Oh, you’re an idiot,” but guess what? Today I get an email and now I have a big ass sponsor at a high-paying amount. I’m going to be the highest paid guy at Bellator with my shirt. All the other guys that are fighting…these guys are fighting, like, title fights for Bellator…and they give them $1500 bucks to wear a t-shirt, you know? I’m getting three, four times that. I want to f*cking slap them in the face. What pisses me off too is that my sports agent is trying to pressure me into accepting that sh*t. You know what I mean? You know why? Because I went on Twitter and I started bashing Sprawl and Sprawl started crying a river…called my agent, “Why was he saying that about us?”, blah blah blah. So now, Sprawl is staring to not sponsor, like, ten of those other guys [fighting in Bellator]. The agent is going to make $400-$500 bucks off the same guys…so he’s trying to pressure me into signing this deal for $500 bucks because for him, it’s not [just] $500 bucks. It’s ten guys at $500 bucks. I got this hernia, I push that shit back in my stomach every day. It’s popping out. I got a torn ACL, I’m fighting my ass off and this guy’s got a million dollar house and he’s trying to tell me to sell me for $500 bucks.
Stephanie: At least you got a good sponsor in the end.
War Machine: Yeah, because I’ve got balls. They’re a company called Saint Apparel. “Saint” like “a saint,” like me. They’re from Canada.
Stephanie: Tell me about your venture into porn and how that happened.
War Machine: After I was on The Ultimate Fighter, I started getting kind of popular and all of a sudden porn girls would write me on MySpace. So I started going to L.A. and started boning them [laughs]. So, I knew all these porn girls and then one day I was talking to them and I was in a weird mood…I said, “I’m going to try porn…f*ck fighting. I’m going to take some time off.” So I just went there and did it; it was fun.
Stephanie: How much porn did you do?
War Machine: I did, like, 20 scenes or so.
Stephanie: So, why did you stop?
War Machine: I got jumped at a party and I beat up a bunch of guys who were kind of powerful and they blackballed me from the industry. I also got engaged.
Stephanie: Did you ever get married?
War Machine: Yeah. She got deported when I went to jail. She’s back in Hungary; I’m not married [now], but I have a girlfriend.
War Machine: I don’t know. Did she really get hurt, or is it a lie? I bet you the UFC probably paid her to say she was hurt because they didn’t want her on the show; they wanted to have Miesha Tate instead. I wonder if it’s real or not. I wonder if they were like, “We want the prettier girl on the show, here’s f*cking $20 grand to say you’re hurt.” I’m curious. It’s bullsh*t because the UFC had their hearts set on Ronda Rousey and stupid “Cupcake.” They got screwed over because Cat won and Cat’s not as much of a pretty girl or whatever…I don’t know, man. Rousey is so one-dimensional. The best MMA girls aren’t even in the UFC. I’d rather watch the girls over in Invicta or Bellator.
Stephanie: I read on Twitter that you want to tell millions the truth about MMA; is that related to the sponsorships or is this something different?
War Machine: The sponsorship thing…just everything, man. It’s how the whole sport is and it’s the UFC’s fault. Bellator is doing the best they can, but they’re limited in the amount of budget and sponsors they get. The UFC is screwing it up so much. If a big company, like Reebok, would step up and sponsor Bellator and give them the money they need to really compete with the UFC, it would be different. It’s all about the sponsors; that’s where all the money is.
Stephanie: So, basically, your whole point is that it’s the fighters who are doing all of the work, but not the ones making the money.
War Machine: Yeah, exactly. I saw a statistic of some sh*t…I forget…but it was like the NFL or the NBA, pro-sports. The profits of every pro-sport, like 70 percent or 80 percent, goes to the players. That’s where the profits go, you know? And in f*cking MMA? 17 percent of the profits of the UFC, goes to the f*cking fighters. 17 percent! Compared to, like, 70 everywhere else in the world. They can afford to give all of us good paydays, but instead they want to have eight Lamborghinis instead of three. Why do they want to be so greedy and rich? It’s f*cked up.
Stephanie: What’s the story with you and the UFC?
War Machine: They kicked me out because when Evan Tanner died…and I still think he killed himself, or I think he went out there because he wanted to die. That’s what I still believe. I said the reason why he did this is because he was a f*cking champ and he never made any money. Now, he’s at the end of his career, he can’t win any more fights, he has no retirement, no savings, he has to start fresh, he can’t fight anymore and so I think he went out there to die. I said, “Mark my words, you’re going to see a lot of fighters in the future, when they can’t fight anymore and they have no money to show for their whole career, killing themselves.” And it’s going to f*cking happen, I promise you. The UFC was like, “Dude, you’re saying that we don’t pay you guys enough so you’re all going to kill yourselves when you get old?” I wasn’t being supportive of the UFC so they fired me; that’s why. [For full story, click here.]
Stephanie: Do you believe that after your performance in Bellator that the UFC will reconsider and ask for you to come back?
War Machine: If I win a tournament and I win the f*cking belt, of course they are going to want me back. 100 percent guaranteed; they’ll have to come. But Bellator’s not going to let me go; my UFC days are done. Bellator has the last right of refusal; they have the right to match the UFC’s offer. They will never let me go! I’ll be one of their biggest stars after that. You know what? I don’t want to go back to the UFC because I’m not going to sit there and watch every word I say and I’m not going to tolerate that bullsh*t. They’re like a bunch of Nazis, man. I can’t tolerate that, I can’t be there. I’m happy at Bellator; I don’t give a sh*t.
Stephanie: Tell me about your tattoos.
War Machine: I got a bunch, man. I got some Kanji on my back that says, “Survival of the Fittest,” in Japanese. I have some Kanji on my right foot that says “Yamato Damashii,” which basically means “Samurai spirit.” I got anarchy signs on my hands because I hate the government and I hate rules. I have a circle on my neck; a circle means to me, like, everything that matters to me, like my circle, the few people that I care about, that I trust…I got a bunch of stuff.
Stephanie: I know you have a grenade on your neck, right?
War Machine: Yeah, that was just a marketing gimmick. You know, you see a fight on TV and the next day, you don’t know who the f*ck [the fighter] is. There are tons of fighters out there [like that.] You have to have something to stick out; some dudes have a mohawk, Tito Ortiz had his little bleached blond hair; you got to have that something. I’ll walk by people and they won’t recognize me and then they’ll see my neck and they’re like, “Oh! You’re that guy,” you know? It’s probably one of my best ideas.
Stephanie: One of the fan questions was, “What’s his knuckle tatt say?”
War Machine: It says, “DGAF,” “don’t give a f*ck.”
Stephanie: Tell me about your childhood and growing up. Are you still close with your family?
War Machine: No, my family sucks. My mom’s a f*cking drug-addict loser, my dad died when I was 13, my brother is a piece of sh*t; I hate my brother. I have my sister, that’s all I talk to.
Stephanie: Where did y’all grow up?
War Machine: We grew up in the L.A. area.
Stephanie: Did you do any sports in grade school or high school?
War Machine: Yeah, I always played football growing up. I did water polo, swimming and wrestling.
Stephanie: So the wrestling led into MMA?
War Machine: Me and my dad used to watch these “Gracie In Action” instructional videos when I was in seventh grade, but wrestling was my real first training.
Stephanie: How did you decide to make the move to training MMA, then?
War Machine: I was in college and I was a biology major. My mom stole all my tuition money and spent it on drugs, so all my credits were frozen and I couldn’t transfer them. My other thing besides going to college and being an officer in the military was being a fighter, so I just moved to San Diego and started training with Ken Shamrock…and then [I've been with Und1sputed] since 2005 when it first opened up.
Stephanie: I know in a previous interview you mentioned that you were in the hole the entire time you were in prison, but did anyone ever try and start a fight with you while you were in there?
War Machine: No, they’re all a bunch of pussies and a bunch of bullies and they’re all talk. None of them had the balls to ever try anything. That’s a joke.
Stephanie: You were incarcerated at the same time and in the same prison as Floyd Mayweather. Do you have a friendship with him?
War Machine: No, he was in a different unit; we were just there at the same time.
Stephanie: Who is your favorite current UFC champion?
Stephanie: These two questions are from Stephie [Daniels]: She wanted me to ask you about “Pow-Pow?”
War Machine: [Laughs] “Pow-Pow” is just a funny word I use for sex. If I say, “I need some f*cking Pow-Pow,” it means I need to get laid.
Stephanie: …and then she said something about a pizza box?
War Machine: [Laughs] I did a porno one time in a boxing ring and I had my dick through a pizza. It was stupid, she’d gotten done working out and I was the delivery boy and she knocked me out and I was in a dream and the pizza was on my lap and my dick was sticking through and I f*cked her with it.
Stephanie: Oh my! [Laughing] Last fan question: “I want to know how often during the day he wants to punch someone in the face.”
War Machine: Uh…I don’t know. I think about punching people in the face less than I think about having sex. I think about having sex every three and a half seconds.
Stephanie: Well, hopefully your girlfriend lives near you!
War Machine: She doesn’t, she lives in Vegas. Hey, put my girlfriend’s name on there.
Stephanie: Oh, okay. What is it?
War Machine: It’s Christy Mack.
Stephanie: [Writing] Christy Mack…
War Machine: She’s a porn star. She’s a real popular porn star. Those f*ckers are really going to hate on me when they see that sh*t. Everyone hates on me, you know? When everyone finds out she’s my girlfriend, they are REALLY going to hate on me.
Stephanie: Who would you like to thank going into this next fight?
War Machine: I would like to thank my sponsor, Garden of Life and I want to thank my new sponsor, Saint Apparel. I’d like to thank my coach Baret Yoshida and my coach Joe Vargas and all my training partners at Und1sputed gym.