by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Recently, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White made comments guaranteeing the promotion’s debut in either Boston or New York City. UFC vice president of government and regulatory affairs, Marc Ratner said in an exclusive interview with MMAWeekly.com that both are a possibility by the close of 2008, along with a slew of other cities in the United States and Canada.
“We’re hoping for New York and Massachusetts by the end of the year and I think it’s very, very doable, we just have to go day by day,” said Ratner.
The former executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission stated that New York and Boston are just two of the many locations they are currently working with to get sanctioning for future UFC events.
“We’re certainly working on both places as well as Tennessee, South Carolina, New Hampshire,” he commented. “Do I think we’re going to get all those places? Absolutely. I think it’s just inevitable. I’m very bullish on New York. Whether it can happen by the end of the year, it’s certainly possible, we just have to look at the legislative steps, and we’re doing that.”
Ratner stated that legislation has passed or is expected to pass in a number of areas, including the aforementioned state of Tennessee, which is the home state of current UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who has an as-of-yet unscheduled title defense against Forrest Griffin later this year.
Massachusetts will play home to an event this weekend as World Championship Fighting will welcome UFC president Dana White as a special guest, but Ratner stated the entire state is not sanctioned and until it is, the UFC will not head to Boston or anywhere else in the state.
“I think what happens is it’s okay to have it in certain towns there, but it’s not regulated by the athletic commission,” stated Ratner about MMA in Massachusetts. “We will not go in America, and I say that very carefully ‘in America’ because we do go to England, but we’re teaching them how to regulate it. But we will not go anywhere in America without an athletic commission, that’s really regulating the sport.”
As for New York, the state has been working with the UFC already and they hope to call Madison Square Garden home one day very soon.
“I haven’t found any resistance,” said Ratner about legalizing MMA in New York State. “It’s just education, and working with the legislative little hurdles, and you have to get sponsors, and you have lobbyists, so we’re going to get it done. We’re in constant contact with Madison Square Garden; they want us really, really bad. We want to be in the Garden. That’s one of our goals to hear Bruce Buffer say ‘Live from Madison Square Garden,’ and we’re going to get that goal.”
He also mentioned Chicago as another possibility for a show in the future, and while the state of Illinois currently hosts mixed martial arts events, again it is clarified by the UFC vice president that it is not statewide sanctioning just yet.
“Obviously, people are going to Chicago and Illinois. Well when the commission completely takes over, which I think will be in April, they’ll start regulating it, and by July 1 it will be completely legal. That’s when we’ll start making our end rounds around Illinois.”
With the UFC’s record sellout in Montreal on Friday, he also said that Vancouver is a possibility for a future event and the promotion is still working with the province of Ontario, another place in Canada where MMA is not currently sanctioned or legalized.
“We’ve invited the Ontario commissioner to the fights in Montreal,” Ratner said. “I think this huge crowd and this early sellout will certainly open their eyes from an economic standpoint if nothing else.”
Meanwhile, back in the United States, Pennsylvania recently passed laws to regulate MMA, so now Philadelphia is “very possible” for an event in the next year.
“It’s definitely going to be legal there (Pennsylvania),” stated Ratner. “They’re just fine tuning with the unified rules. I think by March or April (MMA will be legal).”
With the UFC’s growth all over the world, Ratner made sure to amplify the sentiment that while bringing the event to the masses is the goal for the promotion, they will always call Las Vegas home.
“We will never forsake our Las Vegas roots,” he said. “This is still the greatest place of them all to have a fight.”