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Rua against Sonnen 'not in jeopardy'

June 19, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Mauricio Rua faces Chael Sonnen in the main event © Getty Images
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UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner refuted a report that the promotion's August 17 event in Boston is in jeopardy of falling apart if several fighters scheduled to compete fail to secure Social Security numbers.

"The fight is not in jeopardy," Ratner told ESPN.com. "There are a few fighters whom we're working on their visas. Everything is in the process right now. They're all going to apply for Social Security numbers. They have to get visas but also have to apply for Social Security numbers. We're complying with every part of the law.

"At the end of the day, we will be fine."

Ratner's comments come on the heels of a Boston Herald report earlier that said legal "red tape" in Massachusetts might prevent the UFC on Fox Sports 1 card from happening. The event is scheduled to be held at TD Garden.

Several foreign fighters, including former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, who is Brazilian, are slated to compete on the card. Rua faces Chael Sonnen in the main event.

Most UFC fighters who were born and reside outside the US do not possess Social Security numbers. No US jurisdiction that is a member of the Boxing Association of Commissions other than Massachusetts requires a fighter to possess a Social Security number.

"Massachusetts law specifically requires Social Security numbers to obtain a license to fight," Terrell Harris, a legal spokesperson for the state Department of Public Safety, told ESPN.com. "We legalised mixed martial arts in 2009, it became effective in 2010 and [the requirement] has been on the books since then."

UFC is looking to make its second appearance in the state. It held an event, UFC 118, at TD Garden on August 28, 2010. Tickets for this year's event are scheduled to go on sale on Thursday.

Ratner, however, said Massachusetts officials only recently have made UFC aware of its Social Security requirement.

"This has never come up before," Ratner said. "We were there once and this was not told to us. Three years ago it was not a problem. On this card we have some foreign fighters, but we will comply.

"We're working on it as we speak. Whatever we have to do, we have immigration people on it.

"It's in their state statute as a requirement for licensure. The Social Security people are willing, but we have to make sure the state is willing. That's why we are going to make sure we get everything in."

But Harris strongly refutes Ratner's claim. He said UFC was aware of the state law in 2010 and the promotion complied.

"They can say whatever they want, but they've been lobbying us [for a waiver] for quite some time, so we know they are not just hearing about it," Harris said. "And this situation has come up more than once.

"I can't tell you specific dates or specific fights, but this is not the first time that we've talked to them about this issue.

"If [UFC 118] was held after February 2010, yes, [Social Security numbers] would have been an issue or a requirement. And we've not waived that requirement for anyone. That means they had to abide by the law because we have not waived this requirement for anyone.

"We've already explained to them that it can be done in as little as 10 days. But we don't issue Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration does, and on their website you can find the requirement for them to issue the temporary work visa, which would allow [UFC fighters] to get the Social Security information needed so that they can get their fight licenses. It's that simple."

A Social Security Administration representative, who spoke to ESPN.com under the condition of anonymity, said Social Security numbers are necessary for employers to report an individual's earnings to the agency for tax purposes.

But Keith Kizer, Nevada Athletic Commission executive director, told ESPN.com that Social Security numbers are not a requirement in his jurisdiction to obtain a license to compete. He said promoters usually work directly with the IRS on matters related to each fighter's federal tax obligations.

New Jersey State Athletic Control Board attorney Nick Lembo told ESPN.com: "Our job is to identify the individual through a passport. And you can make sure they have the proper visa to be here. The commission can notify its treasury department, if need be, if there is a taxation issue. But at big-money fights, the IRS is a fixture at the fight anyhow.

"So you don't have to worry about taxation. The commission's job is to identify the individual, which you can clearly do without a Social Security number."

This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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