It was a major hire for the UFC, and one that sent shockwaves through the boxing world, which wasn’t too happy about this sudden development.
“When it was first announced, I had some people say, ‘You’re betraying the sport of boxing,’ which was a weird thing to say,” said Ratner. “When I left, the commission staff was a little upset because it left them not knowing what would be next. The commissioners understood. But I found there was a lot of negative reaction around the boxing world. They were saying, ‘Once you leave, it’s gonna be hard to come back,’ and that kind of stuff.”
What they didn’t realize was that a boxing lifer, Ratner wasn’t abandoning the sport; he was just helping the growth of another one. He is still a diehard fan of the sweet science and can be seen ringside at the big Vegas fights. It’s just like the old days. The only thing that’s changed is the conversations that take place on fight night.
“What’s amazing is that now when I go to a boxing match, they don’t want to discuss anything but the UFC,” he laughs.
That’s not surprising, considering that Ratner led the charge that resulted in mixed martial arts being sanctioned in all 50 states, as well as in several countries around the world that didn’t have the sport legal before his arrival. For perspective, only 22 states in the U.S. regulated MMA when Ratner arrived. And while New York was a long, hard fight, it wasn’t the only one.
“Massachusetts was tough, we had a lot of meetings there,” Ratner said. “Connecticut, even to this day, they have so many different rules, and that made it tough. Toronto was very hard because we had to go to Ottawa and get things changed – they had a national law that precluded MMA. So there were little battles, but what I want more than anything is to say that it was not only me. There were quite a few different people that were with me, like Mike Mersch, and certainly in New York, there was Lorenzo and Dana and different fighters. So I never want that to be glossed over. We had a lot of help.”
Yet if there was a highlight, it would have to be the week of the UFC 205 event in New York City’s Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2016. As Conor McGregor faced Eddie Alvarez in the main event at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Ratner could exhale.
“Nothing was as special for me,” he said. “It started when we finally got New York done and went to the Assembly and saw the vote finally after all those years. Then I was at the Garden for the weigh-in and saw over 15,000 people there. And certainly, the next night, it was Conor and Eddie Alvarez. It was one of the most exciting nights for me to see this vision we all had about New York come to fruition. That was a big weekend.”
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