Marc Ratner is the former head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and member of the Boxing Hall of Fame. On May 15, 2006, he took over as Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for the UFC, and has been instrumental in the “push” to get MMA legalized in Canada, the United States and across the world.
On Friday, April 29th, I sat down with Marc for a few minutes to answer a few questions amidst a hectic schedule at UFC Fan Expo in Toronto.
Elton: What's it been like for you guys coming to Toronto, and has it met expectations so far in terms of fan response?
Marc: This is probably my seventh or eighth trip here, trying to get this sport regulated. This is a big thing for us and for me personally. It's like being pregnant for two years, and now finally the baby is here and look at it: 50,000-plus seats and a huge expo so it's really exciting.
I like driving around town and seeing these banners everywhere. It's like being out for the Super Bowl or the Final Four. The town is embracing it, so it's fabulous.
Elton: Give me a little insight for those who don't know: What was the process like to get MMA legalized her?, Specifically, when was that kind of tipping point when Minister Anggelonitis came around and the McGuinty government came around?
Marc: Well, like I said, it was a two-year campaign. We met with all the different sports ministers, and I believe we had the right lobbyists. Miss Anggelonitis was very knowledgeable about the sport, which was a welcome surprise.
Hiring Tom Wright was a very important element—he brings all the credibility in the world—and it really was a confluence of different events. We could sort of see it coming but until we got the OK from the ministers, we didn't know.
(UFC 129) is bringing a lot to the economy of Toronto. There's a lot of people who are staying here, who are spending money here, who are drinking. It’s a boon to the local economy, so it's been great.
Elton: Building on that last point, do you think you're going to use the success that the UFC has had here—55,000 tickets, huge interest—and add this to your “pitch”, so to speak, for places like New York?
Marc: Well, we're certainly going to do an economic impact study here and, yeah, we're going let NY know about it. We’re going to let them know that there's a certain percentage of people from Buffalo here, from a lot of places. People have traveled to be here. This is a big thing. There's no reason, no fathomable reason, why New York has not approved the sport.
Elton: I agree. In terms of stadium shows, like the one happening in the Rogers Centre tomorrow, does the UFC have it's eye on any other stadiums like Yankee Stadium or Cowboy Stadium?
Marc: I think it's real important to see how it all works out for the fans on Saturday night. I know we spent a lot of money on screens and sound system. We want to make sure that the fan experience is everything that we want. But we'll know more after the show.
Elton: Where do you guys have your sights set on for 2011? Any new markets? I know Dana White has mentioned the Philippines.
Marc: Brazil is positive for August 27th. That's our big show. We've been talking to Liverpool, to Sweden, but Brazil is the next really big, exotic local. We’ve just come back from Australia, so it's really just a traveling circus. *laughs*
Elton: I guess it's on and off, but can you confirm Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami? Is that on the books for the main event or is that still being talked about?
Marc: I think that's still being talked about so I can't confirm, but I certainly believe that Anderson will be in Rio.
Elton: Recently, Vitor Belfort was announced on the UFC 133 card against Yoshihiro Akiyama. I’m wondering why Vitor was booked for that card when he’s one of the biggest draws in Brazil, and “UFC: Rio” is happening the same month?
Marc: Joe Silva handles that, so I don't get involved.