TapouT – The Early Years – Part One

TapouT Clothing has dominated the market of mixed martial arts (MMA) since 1997. They produce clothing and miscellaneous gear targeted at MMA fans. Charles Lewis known as the “Mask” and Dan Caldwell also known as “Punkass” were the original founders of the company, with Tim “Skyskrape” Katz joining the team soon after. Originally selling t-shirts from the boot of their car, TapouT promoted the brand by traveling to different events around the country, creating brand awareness and most importantly brand loyalty. With the expansion of online sales, the company achieved a modest gross annual income of 29,000 dollars by 1999.

TapouT Crew
TapouT Crew

The company’s big break came in 2005 when they sponsored the UFC Ultimate Fighter Final live on US television. After the programme aired, TapouT’s website received 3000 orders an hour which they were totally unpaired for. To deal with this rapid growth, TapouT called on CAA Sports who subsequently took control of all licensing and entertainment. CAA Sports also co-signed a half a million dollar credit line per month with a private equity firm called PEM Group. This injection of much needed capital led to an unprecedented growth in the company, which in 2005 had only seven employees working within a 1000 square foot office space. By 2006, TapouT reached sales of 12 million, with these figures rising to over 100 million in 2008. Amazingly by 2009, the company had over 160 employees and 150,000 square foot of floor space, boldly predicting that they would become a 3 billion dollar company within two years!!!

To achieve this target of 3 billion, TapouT diversified its product range, moving from clothing merchandise to stamping their name and logo to miscellaneous items such as wallets, socks, dog tags, sports nutrition and even bottled water. They signed a licensing agreement with Champion Nutrition who undertook the design, distribution and marketing of the TapouT Sports Nutrition brand to retailers in the US and abroad. TapouT acquired Hitman, a Huntington Beach company that also specializes in MMA accessories in 2009. By this time TapouT products were available in more than 6,000 stores around the world. Despite this success, the company actively took to the road but this time in their tricked-out bus, scouting the country for the new MMA talent and maintaining a personal connection to their loyal fan base with some extreme followers even sporting TapouT tattoos!

TapouT Tattoo
TapouT Tattoo

However, events on March 11th 2009 took the company in a different direction following the death of one of the TapouT brand creators Charles Lewis, aka “Mask”, at the age of 45. His Ferrari collided with a Porsche before hitting a light pole, with the impact splitting his car in two. The two vehicles were traveling alongside one another at high-speed, and were widely reported to have been involved a street race at the time. Lewis was declared dead at the scene. The UFC inducted Lewis into their Hall of Fame at the UFC 100 Fan Expo, and Lewis’ name was made a permanent feature on the inside of the door to the Octagon.

Charles "Mask" Lewis
Charles “Mask” Lewis


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