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MMA Remembers Charles "Mask" Lewis
Tapout founder Charles "Mask" Lewis died in a car crash on March 10, 2009, in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 45 years old.
Mask – 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 The Press-Enterprise.
Mask 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 (via Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press):
You couldn't 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 him.
Dean Lister and Jerry Villasenor:
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.
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.
Mask, aka 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.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone:
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!!
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.
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.
We've been 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.
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.
Michael "The Joker" Guymon:
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.
Dan "Punkass" Caldwell (via his online blog):
To my best friend in the world, you'll be forever missed, but always remembered.