Marc Ratner is the UFC Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and has been a mainstay of the regulatory and officiating side of sports in Nevada for more than 40 years. One of the most colorful figures in the world of sports, the former executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission helped formulate what are now the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts in 2000, paving the way for UFC and MMA sanctioning in Nevada, 48 other states across America as well as across the globe.
When Ratner joined the UFC formally in 2006, he helped expand the sport from 22 states to 40 in three years. A former NCAA Division I football official for more than 20 years, Ratner also has been the shot clock operator at University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball games since 1983.
He’s also the commissioner of high school sports officials for Southern Nevada.
Want to know what’s real and what’s not when it comes to the rules and safety measures of UFC worldwide? Nobody knows about that more than Marc Ratner.
So what’s real this week? Ratner sat down with UFC.com Editor in Chief Nancy Gay for an update:
UFC.com: “You’ve been away from UFC headquarters again. We heard you were in Albuquerque. What brought you there?”
Ratner: “It was a yearly meeting that I go to, the National Association of Sports Officials, or NASO. It covers everything from highs schools to colleges. It’s all about officiating, to the pros. So for me, I was a former chair of the (NASO) board, and it’s a great event.
“They pick an official every year who’s good in the community and a credit to officiating. This year it was Joey Crawford, one of the best NBA refs in the history of the sport. Still going strong.
“One year it was Mills Lane, our boxing referee.
UFC.com: “It sounds pretty cool.”
Ratner: “For me, to see the commonality of officiating, no matter what sport it is, there’s just something about being an official. The camaraderie, being behind the scenes and really enjoying the game.
“For me, there’s nothing like combat sports. You can’t compare football or basketball or baseball with boxing or mixed martial arts.”
UFC.com: “Why is that?”
Ratner: “Because if you make a mistake, and miss a clip in football, you get downgraded. You could miss a bowl game, even.
“In combat sports, you make a mistake and let a fight go on too long, you could have somebody critically hurt.
“Not everybody can officiate in every sport. But in mixed martial arts and boxing, you almost have to have learned the sport by getting in the ring and boxing, or getting on the ground and grappling. So it’s a lot different.”
UFC.com: “How else can a combat sports official work to become top notch? Is there any formal training?”
Ratner: “There are courses. But what’s tough is, you can go to every class and get ‘A’s,’ but until you referee a fight with 10,000 people there, or 12,000 people, you don’t know how you’re going to react.
“It’s one thing to be in a ballroom or a bar with 300 people (watching.) Now you have this big crowd – national TV, worldwide TV – and some guys freeze. Some guys love it.”
UFC.com: “During your time at the NASO sports officiating summit, did you find that officials like to boast that their sport is the most challenging to work? Was there any officiating smack talk?”
Ratner: “(Laughter). I love talking to the different officials. I want to talk to guys who worked the Super Bowl, or guys who worked the NBA Finals. But they just want to talk to me about fighting!
“So I asked a couple of questions, but they’d always come back to me with: ‘What about this guy? What about Ronda (Rousey)?’
"I still get questions from other officials about (Mike) Tyson and the bite fight (against Evander Holyfield), and that was in 1997. So if I want to talk about football or other sports - no. Everyone wants to know about fighting."