A seminal boxing bout took place in November 1993 in Las Vegas. Riddick Bowe—the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion—met Evander Holyfield in a rematch from the prior November, the second act of a captivating heavyweight trilogy. Outdoors at Caesars Palace, the build to that clash of titans is among boxing’s finest moments.
Unexpectedly, the bout came to a sudden stop in the seventh round when James “Fan Man” Miller parachuted into the ring, causing a 21-minute delay to the fight. It was then that Marc Ratner, who was the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, sprang into action and sprinted to the timekeeper.
“There was nothing in the rule book that explained what to do when someone flew into the ring,” says Ratner. “So I knew I needed to go straight to the timekeeper and ask how much time was left when the fight was paused.”
A seasoned referee from his decades officiating high school and college sports, Ratner exhibited poise under pressure during the ensuing chaos of Riddick-Holyfield. And that is the same composure and precise attention to detail he has brought to the UFC career, which began 15 years ago when he was hired as vice president for regulatory affairs by former CEO Lorenzo Fertitta.
“Marc is that calm behind the storm,” says Fertitta. “I don’t know if we could have expanded the sport the way we did without him on the regulatory side. He has done it all in the background, doing incredible work while providing that sense of calm, and he continues to exceed expectations.”
Ratner is set to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on Thursday. This is quite an accomplishment, further amplified considering he is already a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. His defining UFC moment occurred five years ago when New York legalized mixed martial arts, forever changing the landscape of the sport in the United States.
“When the vote finally passed, after all those battles, it was emotional,” says Ratner. “The whole thing had been so unfair. It was a political battle that had nothing to do with the sport. And I’ll always remember our first fight at Madison Square Garden.”
Unbeknownst to him, Ratner’s professional career brought him on a journey straight to the Octagon. All the controversies and arguments he solved throughout the years in boxing helped him acquire skills that fit perfectly in MMA.
“The guy’s a f---ing legend,” says UFC President Dana White. “He’s also shown a different side to mixed martial arts, and he did so during a time when people either weren’t listening or had thought they had already made up their mind about the sport.
“I’ve been in this business since I was 19. Everybody hates everybody. That’s just the way it is. But not Ratner. Everybody loves Ratner. He’s humble; he’s a great human being. He’s such a huge asset to the UFC, as well as to combat sports as a whole.”
A proud father and grandfather, Ratner notes the irony that he has played a role in combat sports.
“I definitely was never a fighter,” says Ratner. “I’m the most nonviolent guy in the whole UFC.”
Even his humble nature cannot overshadow the significance of this accomplishment. Ever since Fertitta coaxed him into coming aboard in 2006, agreeing to a three-year deal (which, Ratner jokes, rolls over in perpetuity), he has been relentless and determined in fighting for the UFC. The sport has grown considerably over the past two decades, and Ratner has been instrumental in his regulatory role.
Fertitta recalls that when they were in the process of expanding the UFC, it was Ratner who helped make it successful. “Marc has made a significant contribution to help build this sport, and that is part of his legacy,” Fertitta says. “He critiques judges, holds meetings with officials, shows the areas that are missed and did the same thing on the health and safety side. That was all vital to us as a young company looking to grow, especially as he shared that with regulators and legislators around the world.”
Thursday’s Hall of Fame ceremony will be in Las Vegas, especially fitting for Ratner. Although his work with the UFC is the centerpiece of his distinguished career, an even more meaningful moment happened in Vegas when he met his wife, Jody.
After moving to Vegas in 1957, Ratner worked with his father in the beauty and barber supply business. They opened a store in Vegas—Ace High Beauty Supply—and Ratner traveled selling supplies. Fate intervened in ’82, when he became enamored with a receptionist from one of the beauty shops. They married in ’86.
“She’s the one I thank,” says Ratner. “Without her, none of this happens.”
Vegas is now where Ratner will forever become a part of UFC history. He stands beside all of the legends of the sport, playing a leading role in the UFC’s growth and ongoing success.
“I have always believed the Hall of Fame should be about the fighters, but I am honored,” says Ratner. “I am so proud to have been on the ground floor of the UFC and being able to play a role in its success.
“Besides getting married and having children, this was the best decision of my career. I love coming to work, and I love being a part of it.”
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