On March 11, 2009 we lost a very special and unique person. Charles Lewis Jr., better known as "Mask," from the TapouT crew.
He was the founder of the TapouT clothing line, a true entrepreneur of MMA, and a colorful personality. He was pronounced dead after getting into an accident in New Port Beach, Calif.
When I found this news out, it hurt. Not because I knew the guy personally, but because his passion for MMA was so infectious I felt like I knew him.
He was a real person, I watched the TapouT show all the time, and saw how passionate he was, when a fighter needed to vent, he was there to listen.
He was a fun-loving guy who started selling t-shirts from the trunk of his car in 1997. His dream was to bring his TapouT brand to the public, and he achieved his goal though hard work and dedication.
In 1999 his company only made $30,0003, he kept it going, eventually he pushed his company over the $100 million mark in 2008.
Mask was a guy that seemed to get along with everyone; he seemed like he never took life to seriously, he just lived. His death was untimely and tragic; the MMA community as a whole lost a good person.
I will always remember him yelling that to Donald Cerrone in an episode of TapouT. now every-time I see Donald Cerrone fight, I can't help but to yell it also. He managed to make a mark on everyone's heart that watched the show.
Seeing how he acted, and reading about him through various websites, I feel he wouldn't want us to cry and be depressed (although it's hard not to feel that way). He'd want everyone to live in his memory and love MMA as he did. My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family.
Above is the link to his final interview before his death. It's him talking about how he got his start. A very good interview, I'd recommend taking some time and watching it.
He will be missed by all.
R.I.P Charles "Mask" Lewis Jr.
"At the end of the day, the world's going to know my dream." - ''Mask"
Below I've included some comments about him from various people on-line:
Mask was known for his kindness and willingness to help others who were less fortunate. He was a true example of the motto "That it is much better to give than it is to receive" and his life attests to this. He will be deeply missed and he will never be forgotten. He will go down as an MMA icon who gave his heart and soul to sponsoring the sport he so dearly loved -- MIXED MARTIAL ARTS!!!!! RIP my brother.(TerribleT)
Mask was an inspiration to all, and this is a great loss for MMA. He brought us entertainment, and had a great outlook on life itself. He will be missed. I'll never forget you man! (Gdubb3)
He was a pioneer, he and his crew were around when UFC was in single digits. He never gave up on the sport, or his dream. He'll forever be remembered. (Jstoner420)
Mask, thank you for being an inspirational figure. I watch your show every time it was on, always getting a good laugh because of you. You truly loved mixed martial arts, and it showed. I would just like to thank you for being so passionate, this is a great loss, not just for MMA but for the world. R.I.P. Charles. (BigBoy33)
What this guy did for the up and coming fighters, and for the sport in general was unbelievable. I once heard someone say that he was just as important to MMA has the 4 oz. gloves. A bold statement, but a true statement.
My favorite episode was when the crew traveled out to Hilo to see Albert Manners, a talented but troubled kid who BJ was almost ready to give up on. This kid had no place to stay, no food, no money, no family, no anything. Mask gave Albert some money for food, hooked him up with all the TapouT gear he could ever dream of, and even got him his own apartment. When they walked into the apartment and Mask said, "this is your new place," Albert was speechless.
I'll never forget the advice he gave Albert before leaving (not verbatim):
"Whether you make it to BJ's level or not, that isn't the most important thing. The most important thing is that you try. I don't know if I'll ever be Nike, but that doesn't mean I'm not gonna try. I respect that you're trying to do something just like I'm trying to do something. Respect your opponent, respect yourself, and try."
Sweet stuff. (Flyin' Hawaiian)
Thanks for reading.