War Machine Sentenced to Life for Brutal Assault of Ex: Inside the MMA Star's Fall

First chance of parole will be after 36 years have been served for assault on adult film star Christy Mack and her boyfriend

"I don't think you're a monster; I think you're a human being," a Las Vegas judge told War Machine Credit: John Locher/AP

Nearly three years after his heinous assault on his ex and her boyfriend, former MMA fighter War Machine was sentenced on Monday. He was handed life in prison with the chance of parole after 36 years are served.

Machine, who was born Jon Koppenhaver, competed for the UFC and Bellator before the August 2014 incident in which he delivered a violent beating on Christy Mack and her boyfriend, Corey Thomas. Sexual assault, kidnapping and coercion were among the 29 counts for which he was found guilty of in March by a Las Vegas jury.

Machine's defense attorneys attempted a last-minute motion for a new trail, but Clark County District Judge Elissa Cadish denied the inquiries and was unwilling to show leniency to the 35-year-old, who will be 71 when the chance for parole comes up.

"I don't think you're a monster; I think you're a human being," Cadish said at the sentencing. "There have to be consequences for what happened, and I have to look out for the well being of the community as I consider the appropriate sentence. I do think a substantial amount of time is warranted, not only for punishment's sake, but for avoiding danger to the community."

The relationship between Machine and Mack (full name Christine Mackinday) began years prior to the horrific incident. Although Machine already had a history of violent crimes to go along with his career as a pro fighter, the couple appeared deeply connected and would routinely make public appearances. Mack attended several of his fights, the last of which came at a Bellator event in October 2013 where Machine suffered a first-round submission loss to Ron Keslar.

The relationship eventually splintered, with Mack citing Machine's erratic behavior, physical abuse and his disdain for her career as an adult film actress as some of the reasons behind the couple's break-up.

Thomas testified during Machine's case that his relationship with Mack was ongoing for two months before the night of the incident. On Aug. 8th, 2014, Machine made an unauthorized entry into Mack's Las Vegas home and entered her bedroom, where she was located along with Thomas. Machine assaulted Thomas upon entering the room, and according to the victim's testimony, inflicted damage which ranged from a broken nose to a dislocated shoulder to bite marks. After the beating, Machine forced Thomas to leave the premises and turned his attention solely to Mack.

Between her court appearances and statements released to the public, Mack outlined the gruesome details of the incident. Her injuries included a fractured rib, ruptured liver and several broken teeth. After a lengthy and agonizing sexual and physical assault, Mack managed to escape her home while Machine was apparently searching for a knife and found her way to the property of a nearby neighbor.

The police were called, but by the time they arrived Machine had already fled the scene. He spent 10 days on the run from authorities, but was eventually apprehended in Simi Valley, Calif., after a guest of a hotel where he was staying called police after allegedly witnessing Machine in a physical altercation with a female.

Machine was cornered in the hotel and arrested without incident. He was immediately released from his Bellator contract and has since been behind bars waiting for his case to play out.

An emotionally distraught Mack spoke prior to sentencing and urged the court to hand out the severest possible punishment to Machine. With a minimum of 36 years, it's possible Machine could still be released before the end of his life.

Mack has used the horrible situation to encourage other victims of domestic abuse to come forward, but said she has no way of telling whether the emotional baggage of the traumatic encounter will ever heal. Fighting back tears, Mack said she will fear for her life in the event Machine is ever allowed back into the public.

"How do you really put a time on a life to live? I don't know if my life will feel complete in 12 years or 20 years or 30 years, neither do you," Mack said. "But I do know when he gets out, he will kill me. The outcome of today isn't my decision, but I've trusted the court through this whole process and I hope the justice system won't let me down.

"I would really like to say to everyone that they can trust the justice system and they should press charges against their abuser," she continued. "There are so many people, women, men alike that don't go the justice route and just let things take their course. I want them to know there is justice out there." 

Machine made an unsuccessful suicide attempt in October 2014 while awaiting trial. He was offered a number of plea deals in the lead up to his trail, one of which included 16 years to life. He declined, however, insisting his preference for a jury trial.

After originally claiming innocence and refusing to take the stand during his trial, Machine finally spoke at the sentencing. He said he constantly regrets his actions.

"Not a day goes by that I don’t seriously regret some of the things I did," Machine said. "I was a lost and empty person. I hated the way that I think, I hated my impulses; It caused me to hate myself. I hate myself way more than any of these people do. I would look at myself in the mirror and smash my face. That's how much I hated myself. It was the only thing I could do to prevent myself from killing myself."

Although the consequences were severe, Machine said the situation also put him on a religious path. It cost him a sentence of more years in prison than he's already spent alive, but Machine claims he's been changed for the better, and for that reason, is accepting of the outcome.

"I gave my life to God," Machine said. "For the first time in my entire life, it's brought me peace inside. It's helped me to remove my self hate. It's given me the ability to manage my depression and anxiety."