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Steve Cofield

Is suicide a serious problem MMA has to deal with?

Steve Cofield
Cagewriter

It was a rough close to 2008 with the deaths of former UFC fighters Evan Tanner, Justin Levens and Justin Eilers. We're not still sure what happened with Levens and his wife. He was known to have drug issues, was living on the edge and feeling desperate as his fighting career appeared to be coming to a close. Tanner may have felt the same things at age 37 when he went to the California desert and didn't come back alive. Former UFC fighter Jon Koppenhaver has felt that same sense of desperation and is dealing with a lot of anger issues. He's often used MySpace postings to vent but many of those posts have come back to bite him. Koppenhaver received a lot of criticism when he tried to play amateur shrink in relaying his thoughts on Tanner's death:

"If anything I was actually speaking up for the guy. I was at his last fight with Kendall Grove," "War Machine" told Cage Writer. "I was backstage, I saw the look on his face and he looked sad, he looked beaten down, he looked like a guy at end of his rope. And it was heartbreaking man to watch him."

Koppenhaver said there's an all or nothing attitude that exists with many fighters:

"What do you expect, guys that fight their whole lives. Evan Tanner was a champion. he wasn't rich. He didn't have enough money probably to retire. He had a lot emotional turmoil."

Koppenhaver suggested as many others did in less public forums that Tanner may have decided it was the end of the road:

"That's what happens when you're an athlete. You work your butt off, all your life, you wanna succeed, if not one of the 3-percent who makes the big bucks, What do you have left? What are you going to get a job?"

He then mentioned friends like Levens and Jeremy Williams who committed suicide:

"I've said it many times to my friends when my career is up, if I have nothing going, it might be a wrap. I might just kill myself too. I think a lot of fighters feel that way."

Watch Koppenhaver talk about his MySpace issues and some fighter's mentality:

War Machine is not the only guy recently speaking with this sense of desperation. UFC welterweight Karo Parisyan has struggled with panic attacks and confidence issues since 2008. He tested positive for illegal use of painkillers after UFC 94. He then told MMAJunkie that he's in big trouble if he can't make a living fighting:

"I've got to come back (in March), and if they take my money and [heavily] fine me, I won't make it until the end of the year. It's that bad for me with income. If they won't level with me, it's going to be pretty hard for me. This is the only way I have to support my family. If I don't fight, I'm going to be homeless by the end of the year. I'm going to try to get married in August. If I don't fight and I get fined, my entire year -- everything I was supposed to do -- will just go down the toilet. Between my marriage and my house, I'll lose everything if you take my money away. So I beg God and I'm begging you guys, please don't do that to me."

This wasn't the first time Parisyan had that desperate sound in his voice. Cage Writer spoke with Parisyan before a schedule fight at UFC 88 and he didn't sound right then.

Koppenhaver told us that he is taking the drug Lexapro to control anxiety attacks and says that he's calmed down a lot. In the past, he knew he couldn't even leave his house without going ballistic at some point. He actually mentioned during a commercial break that he got very mad at Dave Cokin and myself when we were grilling him about his street and bar fights. You can see at the start of the video, where Koppenhaver gives a short answer and takes some deep breaths.

In part three of the interview, he addresses what was perceived to be a threat on President Obama and his subsequent firing from Bellator Fighting.

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