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Friday, 06/28/2013, 04:37 pm

EXCLUSIVE | War Machine: “It Felt Great to Get My Hand Raised Again” | Late Night Cage Side Radio

By JAKE CHASTAIN

| This week BJPenn.com’s Late Night Cage Side Radio welcomed back War Machine Jon Koppenhaver to the show. War Machine was a guest on the show a couple weeks ago leading up to his return fight at Bellator 96. Koppenhaver dominated Blas Avena in that bout taking home the victory by pinning Avena down in a mounted crucifix and landing several brutal shots from the top in the first round. War Machine improved his MMA record to 13-4 and nabbed his second consecutive victory. He talked with our boys Chase Raymond and Kinch about his win over Avena, the recent Bellator retirements, and what’s next for him inside the cage. Here are some of the highlights from that interview:

War Machine, who was making his first fight appearance since November of 2011 after serving some time in prison, looked very sharp in his bout with Avena. Although it took him a little time to look and feel comfortable again, he didn’t let it affect the outcome of the fight. Getting a win in his return was definitely a weight off of the chest of War Machine.

“It felt great, man. I was a little nervous at first, a little more than usually just because it’s been so long. It felt good, man. Once I was in there I was good to go and it felt great to get my hand raised again,”

He was then asked about the slow start and if he felt any ring-rust during the fight. War Machine replied,

“A fight’s a fight. You never know how it’s going to go. I don’t know. Like I said, I felt a little nervous, a little off, a little second guessing myself, a little bit of it in my head and stuff and it took a minute. Once we got into the scramble, once he took me down once and I got back up and the blood started flowing, I felt pretty good. But at first I just felt a little off.”

During the last interview with Jon on Late Night Cage Side he had mentioned that prior to the Avena fight at Bellator 96 he had battled a partial ACL tear that kept him out of action for longer than expected. Kinch followed up on the injury following War Machine’s win over Avena.

“My knee was not an issue at all,” Koppenhaver said. He did go on to explain that he was being bothered by a rib injury from one of Avena’s knees to his body. He said that he didn’t think that any of his ribs were broken but did state that he was going to get an MRI just to be sure.

Co-host Chase Raymond then asked if War Machine felt that he had a good showing of fans and support at Bellator 96. He stated, “Oh yeah, bunch of love, dude. The Bellator staff, they’re really friendly with me and they like me. I had a lot of fans in the audience. A lot of the fans were backing me.” He continued, “I had a good little section there for me.”

He also commented on the back story, coverage, and build-up that Bellator gave him in his return fight.

“I was surprised they did a huge lead-up to my fight,” he explained.

In some ways though, although this was War Machine’s debut fight with Bellator, the extra coverage was not a surprise. Koppenhaver is a legitimate contender and, beyond that, he’s extremely marketable. War Machine explained, “There’s a lot of fighters but only a handful of marketable ones.” His win over Avena, especially because it was a first round stoppage and an impressive performance for Jon, he may be right on track for a welterweight title run.

He was not, however, shocked that he was able to run through Avena so easily. He explained that his coaching and training under Baret Yoshida makes his skills comparable to anyone’s in the fight game.

“When I hear I’m fighting a black-belt, you know, I’m only a purple-belt, but it don’t make me scared, man, because Baret Yoshida’s purple-belt is better than a lot of black-belts out there,” he said. “He did what he was good at and no surprises there. I think it went how I envisioned it, for the most part.”

War Machine was then asked if he had another fight in mind for his next step with Bellator. He quickly replied, “I’m in the tournament. The tournament starts in September. So I’ll be fighting in September guaranteed, against somebody, for the tournament. So I’m standing by, waiting on the exact date and the exact opponent.”

The Bellator welterweight tournament is currently scheduled for September 7th, 14th, and 21st.

Koppenhaver was then asked if he hopped right back into a new camp to prepare for his September appearance or if he was going to take some time off following his recent win over Blas Avena. He replied,  “I would like to have been in the gym today but my ribs won’t allow it. They’re still pretty sore.” He continued,  “As soon as my ribs are ok I’ll be back in the gym, back training, back sharpening up the tools, getting ready for September.”

War Machine was also asked to comment on the recent Bellator retirements of Renato Babalu Sobral and Seth Petruzelli following Bellator 96. Jon explained, “I didn’t even know about Seth but at the press conference Babalu announced it. It was heartbreaking, man. I’ll tell you what, I almost cried.”

He continued explaining how sad it was hearing Babalu explain how he’s lost a step. He’s not as fast or strong as he used to be and War Machine knows that this is an inevitable part of a fighter’s career. He knows that his time will also come one day, but he’s still focused on reaching the peak of his potential.

“I feel good and strong and quick still,” he said. “As long as I don’t get injuries, man, I don’t see any reason why I can’t fight into my late 30’s. I would love to fight all the way up until I’m 40.”

He also talked about what he’ll do following his fight career when he said, “I think I’ll know when it’s time to call it quits. I think I’ll do a good job coaching. I’ve already helped a couple guys come up and do some good things and they’re still at it. So that will be my next venture after this, for sure.” He continued, “I think I have a very good future as a coach one day.”

We thank War Machine once again for joining our crew at Late Night Cage Side Radio and we wish him the very best in his upcoming fights, starting in September in the Bellator welterweight tournament.

For more exclusive MMA interviews click here and stay posted to BJPenn.com

-Jake Chastain

@jchastain45

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