A former UFC fighter has gotten a life sentence — with the possibility of parole — in a high-profile sexual assault case in Las Vegas.
War Machine, who competed on The Ultimate Fighter and also fought for Bellator, was sentenced to 36 years to life by a Clark County (Nev.) District Court judge Monday in a sexual assault and kidnapping case involving his ex-girlfriend Christine Mackinday.
War Machine, who was born Jonathan Koppenhaver, was found guilty on 29 of 34 charges in March, including counts for sexual assault and kidnapping. The 35-year-old will be 71 years old by the time he gets the opportunity at parole.
Judge Elissa Cadish told Koppenhaver that she didn’t think he was a “monster,” but a human being with good points and bad points. At trial, Koppenhaver’s defense mentioned issues he had in his youth, notably a hatred toward his mother. Cadish said she wished Koppenhaver had gotten needed help as a child, but still had to face the consequences of his actions as a grown man.
“As an adult, it’s up to you to address the issues that you had and certainly, as you know, it’s not appropriate to take it out on these other people around you,” Cadish said. “It’s not like this case is the first case. … There were many points along the way that should have been red flags that something had to change. I'm just grateful that we don’t have a murder case on our hands.”
Cadish said she still had to rule on a lengthy sentence to “avoid possible danger to future potential victims.”
Mackinday said at trial that Koppenhaver knocked out her teeth, broke her eye socket, fractured her rib and ruptured her liver in a 2014 attack. She said Koppenhaver attempted to rape her at knifepoint, but was unable to do so, and then chopped off her hair. Koppenhaver was also found guilty of battering the man Mackinday was with that night, Corey Thomas.
Mackinday, most known by her porn actress stage name Christy Mack, spoke at the sentencing hearing and said she believes Koppenhaver would kill her when he gets out of jail. Koppenhaver was offered 16 years to life previously and turned it down. Mackinday was not in favor of only 16 years.
“I would really like to say to everyone that they can trust in the justice system,” Mackinday said. “I want them to know that there is justice out there.”
War Machine’s lawyer Jay Liederman argued initially at the sentencing hearing for a new trial, claiming that he did not sufficiently argue that Koppenhaver was in a state of unconsciousness during the attack on Mackinday. Cadish denied the motion.
Koppenhaver said at the hearing that he had found God and regrets every day what he has done. He said he hated himself and used to punch himself while looking in the mirror. Koppenhaver compared himself to Aaron Hernandez; he attempted to suicide while in jail in 2014.
“I’m just glad that I’ve finally woken up and seen the truth,” War Machine said. “I really feel like I’d be a good role model and help people wherever I end up.”