People and Pop Culture

UFC to induct Ratner, exec who helped legalize series, into HOF

By Adam Stern

UFC tonight will induct into its HOF one of the most important execs in its history, Senior VP/Government & Regulatory Affairs MARC RATNER. Ratner’s induction into the '21 class as a contributor is a capstone on a career that’s seen him get the leading MMA series legalized in all 50 states and a host of countries around the world, with no location more important than N.Y. Ratner joined UFC in ’06 after a long career in boxing and quickly set out to try to convince many then-wary legislators that the sport of mixed martial arts was a noble one despite how some thought it was too violent, that UFC had rules and was not a no-holds-barred competition, and that the events brought significant economic impact. At the time he joined UFC, around 22 states allowed MMA events. Ratner had a map of the U.S. with legal states painted green and states where UFC was still not sanctioned painted red, and he finally was able to turn N.Y. green after a prolonged multiyear battle came to a successful conclusion in late '16.

SHOWING THEM THE WAY: Ratner told SBJ about the keys to getting UFC sanctioned across the country: “It was all about education. Sometimes we would meet with legislators who had never watched it; maybe they were boxing fans or maybe an older demographic, but their staffs all knew about it -- it was amazing in that regard. We had to educate, show video, talk about it, talk about the economic impact. … All the income from rent-a-cars, restaurants, hotels -- that was a big selling point for us, and slowly but surely we knocked them off.”

MAN OF THE HOUR: In a tribute video posted by UFC this week, the sport’s top execs and a host of other fighters and luminaries reflected on Ratner’s impact. UFC President DANA WHITE said the series hired Ratner in ’06 because he was “the most respected commissioner in the world," after a longtime stint at as the Exec Dir of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who oversaw some of the biggest boxing events of all time. He started that role in ’93. Ratner told SBJ that he prefers to be “more of a background guy,” so this week is overwhelming for him. But he added: “I am thrilled that I am being honored and it’s truly something special for me.” Ratner, long based in Las Vegas, still also works high school sporting events in the Nevada area as an official. He said he still likes turning up to UFC headquarters every day because “every day is sort of an adventure.”

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