LAS VEGAS — In 2009, a few days before UFC 93 in Dublin, Ireland, Marc Ratner was headed down a busy street. By that point, he’d been working for more than three years with the UFC as its senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs.
Even then, he’d helped push MMA to a new level by working with athletic commissions around the United States to legalize and sanction the fledgling sport. Without Ratner’s reassuring presence and respect from years as Nevada’s chief regulator as the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, the process of legalizing MMA in all 50 states would have been much slower.
At that stage, though, he was still known more as a boxing guy. As he made his way toward his destination, he was recognized by a group of excited young men.
“Commissioner!” one of them exclaimed, as Ratner stopped and patiently spoke with them about many of his most famous moments in boxing.
He’s an affable, approachable sort whose integrity has been unquestioned for more than 30 years in sports in which those are highly rare traits. It was a message to the combat sports world in 2006 when he joined the UFC that the company was committed to expanding regulation and hitting the mainstream.
Today, 14 years since Ratner joined the company when only 22 states regulated the sport, MMA is regulated in all 50 U.S. states and in countries around the world thanks to his efforts.
As a result, the UFC announced on Saturday during its UFC 255 broadcast that Ratner will be the final member of its Hall of Fame Class of 2020. The induction will take place in 2021.
“Marc Ratner is the most influential and respected regulator in combat sports history,” UFC president Dana White said. “Marc was instrumental in getting the sport of mixed martial arts sanctioned and regulated globally and the tireless work he did educating athletic commissions about MMA paved the way for us to host events around the world. It will be an honor for me to induct him into the UFC Hall of Fame Class of 2020.”
Ratner was previously elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame (2016), the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame (2013), the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame (2006) and the World Boxing Hall of Fame (2005).
Former UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta was once a commission member of the Nevada Athletic Commission when Ratner was the executive director. They worked closely together and Fertitta was heavily involved in Ratner’s move from the NAC to the UFC in 2006.
He raved about Ratner’s performance and said MMA is far more advanced now than it would have been without his efforts.
“Marc Ratner is one of the most significant figures responsible for the continued growth and popularity of combat sports,” Fertitta said. “As one of the most influential and respected regulators in combat sports, Marc’s contributions to boxing and mixed martial arts over the past three decades are immeasurable, and his impact will continue to shape the landscape for years to come. He is a friend of great character and integrity, and he will be a great addition to the UFC Hall of Fame.”
In 1997, Ratner famously appeared on the “Larry King Show” on CNN along with the late Sen. John McCain and fighter Ken Shamrock. Ratner said Nevada would never regulate MMA with the ruleset that was in place at the time, that only barred groin strikes, eye strikes and biting. But as the unified rules were developed and implemented, Ratner quickly understood that MMA in its new form was deserving of being sanctioned.
He spearheaded Nevada’s sanctioning of MMA, which was key in the UFC’s history because it was viewed as the Fight Capital of the World and its commission was so widely respected.
Lawrence Epstein, now the chief operating officer of the UFC, was the general counsel at Top Rank boxing for much of the time that Ratner was at the Nevada commission.
Epstein said Ratner’s worldwide respect made him a natural fit for the UFC.
“Marc Ratner is the most experienced and respected combat sports regulator in history,” Epstein said. “The sport of mixed martial arts and UFC do not exist in its current form without his contributions.”
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