By Peter Gleason
John McCain was a fighter until his life ended yesterday at the age of 81.
He had a deep love for boxing, which he participated in when he was a student at the Naval Academy more than 60 years ago, and whenever his schedule permitted the late Arizona Senator would be at ringside watching the major bouts of the time.
The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, that was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, was the result of tireless work by McCain and a few other senators hoping to help boxers they saw as exploited and powerless.
In 1997, he appeared on Larry King’s show on CNN with Marc Ratner, then the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission and now an executive with the UFC; as well as fighter Ken Shamrock. In the early days of the UFC, there were only three prohibited moves: No biting, no eye strikes and no groin strikes.
McCain infamously referred to MMA as “human cockfighting,” and used his influence to have it removed from television. It almost did the sport in. But his words and actions were out of a sense of trying to help the fighters.
When in the late 1990s MMA promoters began to seek out regulation, McCain approved. And ex-UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, in a statement to Yahoo Sports, said the sport may not exist now were it not for McCain’s insistence on regulation.
“If it wasn’t for Senator McCain forcing the issue of regulation in MMA, the sport wouldn’t exist and flourish as it does today,” Fertitta said. “Once he felt that health and safety issues were being addressed for the fighters, he had no issue at all with the sport.”