by MMAWeekly.com Staff
founder Charles "Mask" Lewis died in a car crash on March 10, 2009,
in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 45 years old.
– along with friends Dan "Punkass" Caldwell and Skyskrape
– was the driving force behind the popular mixed martial arts clothing
company. Tapout began with an inventory of t-shirts sold out of the trunk of a
car. Under his guidance, the company steadily grew from $29,000 in sales in
1999 to $25 million by 2007 to a projected $100 million in 2008, according to
leaves a long legacy of building one of the most successful companies in the
sport, but more importantly, he leaves behind memories of a man that had a deep
passion not only for MMA and its athletes, but also life itself… and one of
the most infectious laughs of all time.
In the spirit of
remembering Charles "Mask" Lewis, following are some of the comments
from people who new him… in their own words:
Dana White, UFC
President (via Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press):
meet a nicer guy, a more friendly, outgoing guy, a
more loyal guy. He really was a good person. He’s one of the pioneers, one of
the legends of this sport.
This guy was
selling T-shirts out of the trunk of his car and when we first got involved
with the UFC, we met them. We really liked them. We liked their energy. They
were good people and we got together and we started doing all this grassroots
marketing together – the UFC and Tapout. They were very loyal to us and
we were very loyal to them.
And it sucks to
see a guy who has worked so hard his whole life, to
finally make it and break through, and then have something like this happen to
Fighter and Jerry Villasenor, Lister’s Manager:
We would like to
say that we feel lucky and are thankful for the time we knew Charles “Mask”
Lewis. We will all miss him dearly and we will more than ever proudly wear the
Tapout brand because everybody at Tapout from Charles, Punkass, Skrape, Damon
and the rest of the Tapout family have given fighters, managers, coaches, promoters
more than sponsorships. They have given us inspiration and ability to do what
we love and that is be a productive part of the MMA
world that he, Punkass and Skrape helped bring to the spotlight when the sport
was in its infant stages. Plain and simple… Tapout is MMA. Thank you Charles.
Sven Bean, Ring of Fire Promoter:
I met Charles in late 1998 in California. I can tell you the energy,
drive, and passion he had back then blew me away immediately. It was
contagious. The amazing thing is that it never faltered, ever. Every single
interaction I had with him from then until now was exactly the same. It didn’t
matter what kind of day I was having, if I looked down and saw that Mask was on
the phone, I knew my mood would be better after the call. He truly lived and
breathed this sport and his brand. He wasn’t one of those guys that are just
along for the ride. He was the ride. I am thankful to have known him, and
thankful for the great energy and happiness he brought to those around him.
Charles, You will be missed but never forgotten.
Charles, was such a positive individual who inspired many, many people to live
life to the fullest and follow their dreams. He was a great example of how intelligence,
hard work, and faith will always pay off. Charles was always looking for ways
to lift people up and help anyone he could. He was the ultimate listener and
master communicator. He loved MMA and loved life. His laugh was proof of that.
It is tough to
see people like Charles go. He was such a giving person and just wanted to see
everyone reach their potential. Charles lives on
however through the legacy and many friends he left behind and through the
brand he helped create. For those who had the pleasure of meeting or knowing
him, he helps us to realize we should all live life like he did.
"Cowboy" Cerrone, Fighter:
I would first
like to start off by thanking Mask for everything he has done for me!!!
He believed in me when no one else would. Gave me a chance. Called
me his diamond amongst the coal. He would call me in the beginning and tell me,
"Keep your head down… set your goals and (expletive) go for it. I
got you boy!" I owe everything to you Mask, so I thank you once
again!! I lost a friend, teacher, and a role model. I look up to you.
R.I.P. my friend, I’ll see you at the stairway to Heaven!!
T.Jay Thompson, MMA Promoter:
Charles "MASK" Lewis believed in MMA, Super Brawl, and T.Jay
Thompson before I did. Rest in Peace, Charles. The entire MMA world
will miss you dearly.
I don’t really
know what to say. I talked to him before it happened. He and I were
very close friends. He was a great guy and I’m going to miss him a lot.
Joe "Diesel" Riggs, Fighter:
(Tapout) sponsored me since I was 17 years old. I remember I was
fighting in Rage in the Cage, way back in the day since 2001 when I was in high
school. I came up to them and pitched myself, told them how I was going to do
this and this, and they started sponsoring me for a 100 bucks a fight. Back then, they were only sponsoring guys with clothing, so I was
getting money, which was really cool. I’d go out to venues, like King of the
Cage, which was a big deal for me just to go there. I’d be by myself or with
Edwin Dewees, and Charles would yell from 400 yards away, I’d hear him, “Diiieeesal!”
It made me feel at home. That was a cool memory I have of him. He made me feel
like we were really close. It’s the best relationship I’ve ever had with a
sponsor. I’m going to miss that guy to death; it’s a horrible loss for the MMA
Charles was one
of the most passionate guys I’ve known. He was honest and a hard worker.
He was very caring and sincere. His passing has saddened so many
people around the world and is a great loss for MMA.
friends for the past decade. He’s always been there for me and I
always tried to represent whenever I could. We had a pretty close
relationship, closer than most people in business I guess you could
say. We’ve been friends first. He’s going to be missed. He
was one of a kind.
Chad Bergmeier, MMA Manager/Promoter:
I’ve been in this business for about 11 years, and I met (Mask) about
four years ago, but really got to know him in the last two, three years. He’s a
person that once you meet him, you never forget him. One of the conversations I
remember having with him was after a WEC weigh-in. (Tapout was) getting ready
for season two (of the reality show) and we had this
long conversation. He was just really intense about how he was listening to
every single word of what I was saying to him about the different fighters.
That just meant a lot to me, with him showing how interested he actually was,
somebody with his power in this industry and the sport. For him to actually pay
attention, that just showed a lot about the character that he is and was. It’s
easy to assume by watching the TV show that they’re just putting on an act, but
what you saw was what you got with him. How concerned he was about each
individual; that was how he really was.
He was one of
those guys that if you ever met him, you remember meeting him for the rest of
your life. Not because he was ‘Mask,’ not because of his dress
or his actions, just because he actually looks you in the eye
and talks to you. ‘Mask’ was one of those guys; to me he was
kind of like a Harrison Ford, a Nicolas Cage, a John
Travolta. You meet them one time and it’s kind of a story you’re going to
always tell your grand kids about that you met him because not only is he
iconic in our sport, but he was also that guy that paid attention to you.
He was always
giving everything away that he possibly could for the sport, for his fighters
and for the guys he believed in. And a lot of times he was giving that
stuff away to people he didn’t believe in because he knew that they
could be better than they were.
It’s really a
big loss. You probably couldn’t lose a bigger name in the sport at this
point and time. He really is going to be missed by all of us whether we
want to admit it or not. And those haters on the Internet talking out
against Tapout and how they do things, even they are going to feel the impact
of how big of an icon he is within our sport. He truly is a Hall of Fame,
legendary participant of MMA.
Mask is really
going to be missed by me and my family.
Mask and his
legacy will live on through the people he has touched. Nobody will ever
forget who he was and how he changed our sport and our lives.
"The Joker" Guymon, Fighter:
For those of you
that don’t know me, my name is Michael "The Joker" Guymon. I was one
of the original members of the TapouT Crew. Charles " Mask" Lewis to
me is someone I feel privileged to have known. By far the most crazy,
over-the-top, free-thinking person I’ve met.
He may have
looked like crazy big dude with face paint on, but make no mistake about it, he knew what he was doing and how to market his product.
I know in my heart he is looking down from where he is saying how he did it his
way and adding his uncanny laugh at the end.
I’m so sorry for
the things I said to you and Dan. I love you and miss you buddy.
"Punkass" Caldwell, Tapout (via his online blog):
To my best
friend in the world, you’ll be forever missed, but always remembered.