"I couldn't catch my breath. I started convulsing. At that point, it felt like I was going to die."
Christy Mack held back tears as she voiced those harrowing words on HBO's critically acclaimed ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.' She recounted the disturbing tale of her ex-boyfriend, former UFC and Bellator fighter Jon Koppenhaver, as he allegedly brutally beat her to the point of convulsions.
As she lay cowering in the corner, Mack inched closer to death.
The former adult actress' terrifying tale of near-fatal abuse was the centerpiece for the HBO segment, where they investigated the disproportional rate of domestic violence in Mixed Martial Arts. It was Mack's first on-camera interview since the incident, which took place in 2014. However, it was far from the only card up HBO's sleeve, as they launched a detailed report, which emphasized the dramatically disproportional rate of domestic violence in MMA in comparison to both the National Football League and the national average in the United States.
According to the segment, the volume of domestic violence arrests that included MMA fighters was more than double that of the average national rate in the U.S. Using public records as their main resource, Real Sports determined that the national rate of domestic violence arrests is around 360 per 100,000 men. On the same chart, they contrasted that against NFL players, which found 210 arrests per 100,000, while MMA saw a staggering rise to 750.
It's hard to see numbers like this and not conclude that there's a real problem here. pic.twitter.com/0PtAmNCs14— Ben Fowlkes (@benfowlkesMMA) July 22, 2015
Koppenhaver, just one of several offenders mentioned in the segment, is potentially facing life in prison for 34 felony charges, including attempted sexual assault and strangulation. During his first hearing, Koppenhaver laughed during Mack's retelling of the alleged assault, clearly lacking any form of remorse.
"I shudder to think what would have happened had she not escaped," the judge said after seeing photos of Mack's injuries.
Added below are the graphic photos and story about what happened pic.twitter.com/U1T1X2OP4d— Christy Mack (@ChristyMack) August 11, 2014
Several other notable MMA fighters were mentioned by name during the segment, several of whom still remained in the UFC. Former title challenger Anthony Johnson was suspended by the promotion following his latest domestic violence accusations. Johnson has been accused of DV on three occasions by three separate women, one of which included a no contest plea.
This was Johnson's response to the segment:
@DamonMartin they better have their facts right I can tell you that... Fuck em though because they don't care about facts or the truth!— Anthony Johnson (@Anthony_Rumble) July 22, 2015
Another mentioned example was Thiago Silva, who was a UFC fighter when he took part in a standoff with a SWAT team that stemmed from domestic violence. After UFC President Dana White stated that Silva would "never" fight for the UFC again, he was welcomed back with open arms when the charges were dropped. Yet his stint would only last two weeks, as his estranged wife would release several videos showing his apparent cocaine use and several signs of domestic assault with a firearm.
Prior to the release of the videos, Silva delved into the scandal on The MMA Hour and stated that he "learnt never to trust girls." Then, with a surprisingly unconcerned expression, added, "people will forget. They always do."
One of the names that was not mentioned in the segment, likely because it was only recently uncovered, is Travis Browne, who was accused of assault by his wife Jenna Webb. The UFC removed him from International Fight Week as a response to the reports while they underwent an ‘investigation.'
Overall, the HBO segment on domestic violence in MMA was a chilling reminder of the dark underbelly of the sport. With little accountability and even fewer regulations barring previous offenders, it becomes all too easy for a violent sport to harbor even more violent people.
"There's no requirement, really," Jason Miller revealed when asked about MMA promotions hiring him following domestic violence charges. "You don't get vetted. 'Hey, are you willing to fight, can you pass this CAT scan? Do you have AIDS or hepatitis?' No? OK, you're in.'"
Transcription via MMAFighting.com.