The recent announcement that Marc Ratner, the longtime front man for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, was leaving his post for a spot as the top dog at Ultimate Fighting Championship signaled the legitimacy of the sport . . . for those who hadn’t already taken note.

UFC is not what your mother thinks when she asks “how can you watch THAT?”

Is isn’t a television version of a “toughman” contest where the only noticeable difference is that in “toughman” everyone, including the fighters, are often drunk. In UFC, only the fans are.

Human cockfighting it is not.

Yes, bloody battles still take place, just as they do in boxing, but some fights are actually stopped now on the advice of ringside physicians. Whoodathunkit? Not Momma.

Toughman contests were born out as out-of-shape bar bullies traded blows for beers. In UFC we now have highly skilled fighters in fantastic condition engaging both physical and mental battles. The biggest, strongest fighters don’t necessarily win these days. The winners are the best fighters in a variety of disciplines who train hours each day. UFC, MMA and Pride are big business now, and the financial side of the sport is a big part of why Executive Director Ratner is hitching a ride on the rising UFC star.

Marc Ratner has been a major part of the NSAC since 1984 as an inspector and has served as its Executive Director for 13 years. He will join Zuffa, LLC, the ownership and operating group of the UFC based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He hopes to help the future growth of the UFC and mixed martial arts by bringing his organizational and procedural skills to blend with the promotional talents of the current UFC organization.

But wait, there’s more Mom, it’s a real big business.

Wall Street gaming and lodging analyst John Mulkey has also just changed seats, moving from managing director and senior high yield analyst at Wachovia Securities to assume the post of Chief Financial Officer of the UFC family.

The hits just keep coming.

Obviously UFC owners Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, who also own Station Casinos, know a good thing when they have it. The product that is UFC results in roughly eight pay-per-view shows each year and appearances on Spike TV in addition to DVD and product sales. What fans see now is a far cry from “UFC 1: The Beginning” – which was staged in 1993, the year UFC was born. Are you paying attention Mother?

Fans are.

Worldwide popularity of Mixed Martial Arts has surged as fighters utilize the main disciplines of Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Judo, Karate, Kickboxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu to win bouts by KO, TKO, Tap Out and Submission. Because of the historical roots of these disciplines, the MMA product appeals to any fan of any one of these individual fighting disciplines. A reality TV series “The Ultimate Fighter” garnered record ratings and, most recently, 14,500 fans turned out to an MMA event in Las Vegas.

Michael Buffer can step aside, UFC has the voice of The Octagon., Michael’s brother Bruce. And now, in Marc Ratner, it also has one of the most respected and well-known men coming from one of the top athletic commissions.

If you haven’t caught on by my now Ma, its’ time for “UFC 59: Reality Check” on April 15. Notice has been served.