Time flies, brother. It’s already been two years since the MMA world was blindsided by the tragic news that Charles “Mask” Lewis — founder of the ubiquitous TapouT brand, provider of financial support and encouragement to untold numbers of MMA fighters — died in a car wreck. Since then, Lewis has been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, his beloved company has been sold (not the smoothest transition, apparently), his estate was screwed with by Orange County, and the drunk driver who caused his death was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Of all the Mask tributes floating around the Internet today, we have to give it up to Jonathan Snowden’s BloodyElbow interview with Lewis’s former TapouT business partners, Dan “Punkass” Caldwell and Timothy “SkySkrape” Katz.” Some highlights are after the jump.
“Charles was living in a friend’s house in the back room on a mattress on the floor,” SkySkrape said. “But on his wall, printed on a piece of white computer paper, he’d have all these sayings. ‘To quit doesn’t exist.’ He’d have ‘I cleared $2000 this month.’ Then ‘I cleared $10,000 this month.’ Meaning the company made that much money. Just little things that pushed him. They weren’t always numbers he had achieved. They were things he was one day going to achieve. And it wasn’t about money. It was about being able to go back out, to support more fighters. It was about giving back. There were times we were sleeping on Josh Barnett‘s floor at a UFC when we didn’t have enough money for a room because we were paying the fighters.”
“We did a show in Arizona and we had two fighters. The choice was whether we were going to pay the fighters or get home that night. It was only about $200 or $300 bucks each, but after paying the venue for being there and each fighter, we didn’t have enough for a hotel room. We were going to have to drive straight back. I can remember telling Charles ‘Bro, don’t worry about it. I can drive. I’ve got it.’ We had driven there that day and were looking at another six hours on the road with no sleep after the show. I can remember him breaking down and crying. He was apologizing because he felt like he had failed,” Punkass said. “Because we hadn’t made enough money that night. He took that as a personal failure. I remember telling him it was cool, that it was going to be okay. Usually he was the anchor. He’s the guy that everybody looks to when sh*t’s going sideways. But we all had to support each other. It meant the world to us. As bad as things were, and I’m telling you things were bad, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We believed we were going to make this shit happen. It was like that Eminem song. You only have one chance to make it. And we preached it, promised ourselves. We are not going to fail.
There is no Plan B. That was Charles’s saying. It’s the story of Cortez. I don’t know if it is a true story, but the way Mask told it these guys land in the new world and were outnumbered by the natives five to one. The captain had his men burn all the ships. His first mate said ‘What will we do if we have to retreat?’ And Cortez said ‘There is no Plan B. We have to win.’ There is no escape. Burn these ships and we’re going to go win this f*cking war. That was our mentality. That’s how we thought.”
“There’s not 10 minutes that go by in a day without thinking about Charles. Our life is surrounded and entrenched in TapouT. It’s impossible to not think about him,” Skrape said. “For six, eight, ten months I was kind of just numb. When I met Dan and Charles I was only 18 years old. I was just out of high school, just a kid. He was like a big brother, like a father figure. He was my best friend. I looked at him for everything in my life. And suddenly I couldn’t go to him anymore. When we got into a city we would just walk, the three of us walking, talking, dreaming, all that nonsense. We’d end up on a bus bench or something. Memories like that are kind of cool to think about. There’s still so much more to accomplish. We haven’t come close to making it, to fulfilling Charles’s dream of being the biggest brand in the world. Charles always talked about TapouT being his dream. I hope he inspires people to go out and live their dream. If other people can’t see it, that’s because it’s not their dream. Do what is in your heart and don’t worry about what anybody else tells you.”