“The three guys who make up this Crew are not simply comic book Figures or alter egos, but cultural revolutionaries,” warns the website blurb. “Just don’t expect to catch Mask without his make-up.”
If TapouT has a mission aside from world domination it is the blur the boundaries between real life and comic book life. TapouT’s founder, Charles “The Mask” Lewis, is a serious comic book fan. His business savvy offsider is Dan PunkAss Caldwell and then there is a wiggy giant known only as SkyScrape.
Between them they have created the TapouT brand and brought Mixed Martial Arts—illegal until 2001—out of the garage and into millions of lounge rooms via their own reality TV show called Tapout: Bad For the Sport. In its second season on Versus TV, TapouT serves not only to push the brand but also as a search vehicle for the next MMA star. The first season drew more than 40 million viewers, according to an interview on Sports illustrated
So, what is TapouT?
“The TapouT phenomenon cannot be explained easily. TapouT is here to help bring the sport to its rightful place of world domination, and our products are just an extension of that,” says Mask. He’s the one in, ahem, Mask makeup.
You gotta love it. As many know, the term tapout is from wrestling that roughly translates as GET THIS LUG THE #@$% OFFA ME! The defeated fighter taps on the floor—or not in the case of the unconscious contestant Montoya—to indicate to the ref that he is on the brink of death. Tapout is Game Over.
Way back in 1999, MMA nerds Charles Lewis and Dan Caldwell were training in their California garages. They came up with an idea of a clothing line designed for the underground sport with a strong comic-book bias. Lewis came up with the name and the logo—an homage to his hero, Batman, and Caldwell brought biz savvy to the table. And how. We’re talking the usual balls-to-the-wall $30,000 turnoverin 1999 to $22.5 million in 2007 (double the 2006 numbers). But all pales beside a projected 100 million in 2008.
None of it came easy. Lewis gave up his job to concentrate on this world domination thing and next thing you know had lost consequently lost his beloved 1995 Mustang (since replaced by a tricked-out tour bus), his Ninja Motorcycle and his home. Skyscrape put his buddies up on his couch and they schlepped the printed T-shirt around to shows and fights in his brother’s car. Why did they do it?
“There was no uniform that represented what we felt on the inside, ” says Mask. “There was no brand that meant mixed martial arts.”
It should come as no surprise that next to Batman, Mask’s comic book hero is Underdog. As is “Never Fear—Underdog is here!”
So up until TapouT has been no brand that meant mixing sport and street, business and pleasure, sweat and blood, music and madness, Batman and Underdog. Well now there is. The boys can only hope that it’s as bad for the sport as it’s been for their bank accounts