6 years ago today on March 11, 2009 we lost one of the cornerstones of MMA and the founder of TAPOUT, Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. If you never had the chance to meet him you missed out on a fun, caring, and awesome person. He wasn’t all about money, at all. He was doing what he loved and that is why one of the catch phrases was “In your face” for TAPOUT. Today is sad because we are reminded that we don’t have Mask around anymore. Today I want to talk a bit about who he was and about one story that I have about him.
Mask began TAPOUT in 1997 when MMA was considered a barbaric sport and an underground fight club. Mask knew better than that and saw that there was more to the MMA as the rest of us did. Mask saw that there was a true sport in MMA and never gave up on helping to make it great. So with that in mind Mask, along with his two partners, Punkass and Sky Scrap, made TAPOUT the first true MMA clothing line that is one of the few clothing lines that have survived from the beginning days of MMA.
TAPOUT never gave up on their dream about the sport or the clothing line. They had all types of fighters that they sponsored such as Chuck Liddle, Matt Hughes and many more fighters. Once the UFC was bought by ZUFFA and Dana White started running it right, Mask and the TAPOUT crew knew it was going to change for the better. With all this going on, TAPOUT grew to become huge and became the top brand in MMA with their wicked designs for shirts, shorts, hats, and more. That all changed on March 11, 2009 when Mask and his girlfriend got into a car accident. Along the way to their destination a drunk driver , who tried to race them, hit Mask causing him to lose control of his car. Mask lost his life in that accident. Mask’s girlfriend survived the accident because Mask was a former Sheriff for San Bernardino County, CAand knew how to drive a car in such a way that he could save his lady. I found out about his death from friends and from television news that night and was very upset.
Back in May of 1998 I was at an MMA event and was loving every minute of action and seeing how this sport was coming together. I saw Mask and his crew selling t-shirts there out of the back of a car. They were talking to everyone about the shirts, fights, or just whatever. I went over to see what they were selling and my friends and I talked to them and had a great chat. I bought two shirts that night and I got to know Mask on a personal level.
I saw Mask a few more times up to the year 2001 when things were crazy and you all know why that year. I got to see Mask again in 2003, 2004, and last time I saw him was in 2008. Although I could hardly believe it, Mask remembered me and my name every time I saw him as if I I was an old friend from school or from when he was a Marine. I was really impressed with the fact that he remembered me and how we originally met. We had great times together and shared great stories about love, loss, and happiness. I miss his amazing laugh that to this day I can still hear in my head. Mask loved his family and kids with all his heart and did everything he could to make TAPOUT the best and leave his family a great legacy.
In closing, today isn’t about being sad or anything like that. It is a time to remember all the great things that Mask did for MMA. If you knew him then remember the great times you had with him and share it with anyone that didn’t know him. With that, RIP Mask keep on smiling. I will be expecting to hear that laugh when I see you again my friend. SIMPLY BELIEVE
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