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The Man That Was ‘Mask’

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ncordless

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Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. had all the faith in the world.

It takes nothing less to be the first of your kind, to see opportunity and potential in places where others simply do not. It takes even more to act upon that vision, to put yourself out on a limb in the face of ridicule and failure.

Lewis had faith in the sport of mixed martial arts. Through his Tapout clothing line, he championed it without a hint of hesitation to every stranger, friend, and foe alike.

Charles Lewis was one of the good guys. And that’s why his death in a horrific car crash during the early morning hours of March 11 hit the fight community so hard.

As is the case with those we cherish most, Lewis was gone too suddenly. He was on his way home from the gym with his girlfriend Lacey at 1 a.m., the only time he could fit working out into a hectic schedule. Lewis took pride in his deceiving physique, and many questioned he was really 45 years old, even after officials confirmed it.

That night, Lewis and Lacey had decided to drive by a condominium apartment they had been looking into purchasing over the next few days. It is believed Lewis’ fire-engine red Ferrari occupied the middle lane when Jeffery Kirby and his companion came up along the left side in a white 1977 Porsche. At the scene, black skid marks snake up onto the median’s curb right as the road bends slightly, then drag for 500 or more feet across the three lanes. They indicate Kirby’s car bounced off the road’s island divider before t-boning into Lewis’ vehicle’s backend, sending the Ferrari into a 180-degree spin. The car traveled backwards before the driver’s side wailed directly into a cement light pole, slicing it into two parts.

It was the first time in a few months that Lewis had had the opportunity to enjoy the luxury ride he’d purchased over a year ago. The car had slept at a friend’s showroom until Lewis had been asked to bring it to a photo shoot that day for Dub magazine. High speeds didn’t seem unfathomable under the circumstances, though friends said they couldn’t see Lewis engaging in a dangerous street race for superiority. Lewis didn’t know Kirby, nor was Lewis believed to be drinking at the time. Lewis never touched alcohol, as many will attest, including his best friend and business partner Dan “Punk Ass” Caldwell.

Lewis and Caldwell met in 1992 as sheriffs for San Bernardino County in southern Calif. Both trained in boxing and kickboxing, but soon found a mutual love in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the early UFC events.

The name Tapout was born from the license plate on Lewis’ car. It was a way for Lewis to demonstrate his unadulterated love for the art and he displayed it around town like his badge of honor.

“Especially then, when you would ride down the freeway with ‘Tapout’ on your license plate, people would come up to you and look inside and give you a thumb’s up. That’s how you knew another jiu-jitsu guy,” said Caldwell.

When a license plate wasn’t enough, Lewis went to Caldwell with an idea for a T-shirt

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Post #1   3/18/09 8:55:54AM   

emfleek

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Great read.

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Post #2   3/18/09 9:11:15AM   

67buick

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I still cant believe it...i wonder if it was head trauma?

Post #3   3/18/09 9:23:03AM   

ncordless

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Posted by emfleek

Great read.




I thought so as well. There have been a lot of articles on the subject, but I think this is the best written "Mask" tribute article.

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Post #4   3/18/09 10:29:18AM   

telnights

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ncordless I would give you props but my love needs to spread out more.

Great story and I have even more respect for Mask now, I had no Idea he was a brother in blue. I met him in the early days of Tapout and you could tell he really loved MMA and I think Tapout was made just so he could go see even more MMA. He truly was one of the people that helped shape MMA in to what it is today. I hope his partners and friends can keep his dream alive and keep being a big part of a sport we all love and know as MMA.


I have a story about how I met him and lets you know what type of person he was. I was at an event with one of the guys I trained. Mask was there and He was just starting to really take off with the fighters. I bought about 3 shirts from him at the event and he start asking me about the guy I was training. We talked for 30 mins about fighting and my student. He then asked if minded taking a box of shirts back to the gym and passing them out. I said sure and we met up after the event were he gave me more boxes than the Van we were driving could hold. I gave most of them out at the gym and keep a few for myself. He ended up contacting my student and they worked out a small sponsorship deal. This was even a shock to me because this was his first pro fight and he still had tons to learn. The only shows he would be fighting at for a long time were small local events and a few out of state. The funny thing is Mask knew this but yet he still sponsored the guy.

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Post #5   3/18/09 11:54:56AM   

wapttn

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I dont understand this props system... I dont think I've given you props before NC but apparently I have to spread the love. Great read, thank you very much.

Post #6   3/18/09 3:41:42PM