War Machine gets jail time, probation

By Kelly Wheeler

City News Service

A former mixed martial arts fighter who assaulted a female bartender and punched a bouncer in separate bar attacks was sentenced Tuesday to a year in jail and probation, during which he must stay away from alcohol.

War Machine, who legally changed his name from Jon Koppenhaver, pleaded guilty last month to felony charges of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.

In February and March, the 28-year-old defendant punched a security guard and assaulted a female bartender at another club in Point Loma by sweeping bottles off the bar at her.

At the time of the both attacks, he was on probation for a misdemeanor assault conviction from 2008.

Two weeks ago, Judge David Danielsen refused to honor a plea agreement worked out between the defendant’s attorney and the District Attorney’s Office, questioning his attitude and ability to comply with the terms of probation.

At Tuesday’s hearing, War Machine gave the judge a three-page letter expressing his willingness to comply with probation and stay out of prison.

Hesaid he’s met some not-so-nice people while in custody and wants to move on with his life. The defendant also said he’s lost some fight contracts because of his poor decisions.

“I’ve made some stupid mistakes in my life,” the defendant told the judge. “I’m not a bad person. I’ve tried the hard way my whole life. It’s not working. I’m done with that.”

He said he recently got married and plans to open a gym with a friend when he gets out of custody.

Danielsen said he wasn’t sure if the letter was contrite, but said he was willing to give War Machine one shot at felony probation.

“You understand we’re not fooling around,” the judge told him. “I think we’ll find out who the real guy is.”

As part of his probation, the defendant must get treatment, therapy or counseling if directed, and must abstain from alcohol for the next three years.

Any violation of probation could mean a prison sentence of four years, prosecutor Michael Runyon said.

“The question comes down to this. Who is the real Jon Koppenhaver?” the prosecutor said outside the courtroom. “Judge Danielsen made it very clear ... one error, one misstep, one violation, he’s headed to state prison.”

War Machine appeared on the sixth season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” produced for the Spike TV cable channel by the Ultimate Fighting Championship.