The biography of Charles Lewis (aka Mask) unfortunately ends too early. On March 11, 2009, the man MMA fans and fighters referred to as “Mask” died in a terrible car crash. He was only 45 years of age at the time of his death.
Lewis co-founded Tapout, mainly a mixed martial arts apparel company, in 1997 with Dan Caldwell (AKA Punkass) in San Bernardino, California. Armed with only some artistic knowledge, intestinal fortitude, and a love for comic books, Lewis’s Tapout grossed just $30,000 in sales in 1999. In 2008, the company earned over 100 million dollars. Tapout is now based in Grand Terrace. “Skyscrape”, a friend that believed in Lewis and Caldwell’s idea in the early days, eventually joined the business.
With Mask’s passing, the company will never be the same.
Tapout the Reality Television Show
The Tapout crew had their own reality television show on the VERSUS channel entitled, Tapout at the time of Lewis’s passing. Wearing makeup and interesting garb, the three friends- Punkass, Skyskrape, and Mask- certainly stood out while traveling in a tour bus looking for mixed martial arts talent to promote and sponsor.
In fact, when Tapout showed up young MMA talent took notice. After all, when they decided to sponsor a fighter it meant enough money to really focus on training.
Affinity for the Underdog:
During an interview with SI, Mask said the following about Zuffa co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta’s efforts to sell the Tapout reality television show to VERSUS: “The first thing he said (Lorenzo) when he finally got a deal was, ‘Now listen to me, Mask. There’s this new channel out there and we’re going to put the WEC out there and it’s VERSUS. They’re up-and-coming and they have something to prove and I think they’ll be hot. They’re behind you and I sold the show. It’s kind of an underdog but –‘ and I just butted in with, ‘Well, the thing about underdogs is they have something to prove. I want to be on that channel.’”
Learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Right after UFC 1, Lewis and Caldwell joined the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California. As this was before the Tapout dominated years, the two had little money and, according a piece by Kelly Crigger at Fight! Magazine, came up with a plan to deal with this. Namely, Lewis would pay the training fees and attend two consecutive months of classes before stopping and allowing Caldwell to do the same on his own. In between, the person that attended classes would teach the other what they learned in a garage.
Rorion Gracie later chose Lewis to help Royce Gracie train for UFC 2, which was an amazing honor.
On March 11, 2009, the infamous man they call Mask died in a tragic car accident. He was only 45 years of age at the time of his death. Lewis was driving a Ferrari with his girlfriend when the accident occurred; the other car, which he may have collided with, was a white 1977 Porsche coupe.
“We believe they were going fast based on the skids and the damage to the vehicle,” Police Lt. Craig Fox told KABC-TV in a statement. “But we can’t speculate at this point if they were racing or not.” Apparently, the Ferrari hit a curb and then knocked over a light pole. The light pole fell on it, and the car was torn in half.”