War Machine Talks Bellator Debut, Solitary Confinement

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterNovember 7, 2012

Photo credit: 5thRound.com
Photo credit: 5thRound.com

War Machine, the welterweight formerly known as Jon Koppenhaver, is once again working to assimilate himself back into polite society and gearing up for his return to the cage—and his debut for the Bellator promotion—in January.

Machine, who on Oct. 29 completed his second prison stint in two years, waxed philosophic on the nature of freedom and of bondage Wednesday as a guest on The MMA Hour radio program with alpha journalist Ariel Helwani.

“The first couple days [out of jail] were tough," Machine said. "Super anxiety, super depressed, sensory overload. Now it’s been a week and I feel a lot better. My head’s straight now and I’m back on my medication. I’m back training and I’m eating real food again. I gained 12 pounds in a week."

According to Machine, jail has a funny way of acting on a man. 

“It’s hard to explain," Machine said. "Jail is easy, man. You just sit there and rot. You get out and everything’s uncertain. You don’t really have anything. Jail kind of insulates you like a bubble." 

For 12 months spanning 2010 and 2011, Machine, who said he has battled anxiety and depression for years, lived his life behind bars following a felony assault conviction. His latest stint resulted from a battery charge stemming from a nightclub fight that happened in 2007.

In his seven free months between stints, Machine found the time to beat longtime UFC competitor Roger Huerta in the lesser-known UWF promotion. He is preparing for his return to action, but has no opponent at the moment. In a stroke of novelty, Bellator is asking fans to vote for the main eventers in the promotion's January debut on Spike TV. Joining Machine on the ballot are fellow welterweights Paul Daley, Douglas Lima and Ben Saunders.

Machine, not exactly able to follow his normal training regimen while incarcerated (and at times in solitary confinement), realizes he has his work cut out for him, especially as a potential opponent for one of Bellator's best 170-pounders.

“I don’t know,” Machine said, on whether he can get back in shape by fight time. “Coming from where I was coming from, I don’t get a tune-up fight. But I’ll pull it off. I got two months. I sparred for the first time on Monday. In another month, who knows? We’ll see, but I think I’ll be OK.” 

Machine said he did a lot of reading in prison, especially while in solitary confinement. He expressed a preference for "weird stuff" and "conspiracy stuff," specifically noting Forbidden Science by J. Douglas Kenyon as a favorite. 

“I read 117 books," Machine said. "That’s a lot, dude. I killed my record. I was just smashing books. I’d wake up and start reading, bam bam bam.”

Looking ahead, Machine said he is committed to the straight and narrow, and expressed gratitude toward Bellator for honoring his contract. 

“They stood by me,” Machine said. “These things that happened are gone. They’re done. I got my probation. If I abide by those terms, they can’t do anything. There’s no way I’ll do something else. I’m just going to get back in shape and lay low.”