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The original Tapout crew

A Final Tapout: Charles "Mask" Lewis Jr.

3-11-09: MMA Clothing Pioneer, Charles Lewis Jr., better known to UFC & MMA fans as “Mask,” was killed in a hit-and-run accident early Wednesday morning in Newport Beach, California.

At close to 1p.m., a Newport Beach Police cruiser spotted a red Ferrari and a white Porsche driving recklessly on the southbound side of Jamboree Road, according to Lt. Jim Amormino, a public information officer with the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept.

The Tapout crew in happier days

The Ferrari then struck the curb and hit a street light, tearing the car completly in half. After coming to a brief stop, witnesses say the Porsche then fled away from the scene. Newport Beach paramedics pronounced Lewis dead at the scene, after confirming that the Ferrari was owned by him and that he had indeed been the driver involved, who had tragically expired as a result of the violent accident.

Newport Beach officers later spotted the Porsche a few miles away from the scene of the accident, and stopped its passengers, a male and female, who were seen walking away from the vehicle.

Upon further investigation, officers determined that the male, Jeffrey David Kirby, a 51-year-old resident of Costa Mesa, California, was the driver of the suspect vehicle.

The Car

Kirby was arrested for gross vehicular manslaughter and taken to the Newport Beach Police Department, where a blood alcohol test was administered. The female passenger, Lynn Marie Nabozny, a 32-year-old resident of Newport Beach, was arrested for public intoxication and then released early Wednesday morning.

Kirby’s bail is set at over $1 million. No further motive for the accident is known at this time, according to Amormino.

Lewis, a self-confessed a fan of comics and cartoons, was the co-founder of the popular Tapout Clothing, Inc., and the face of its popular reality show on cable channel Versus. Lewis, along with his colorful business partners, “Skyscrape and “Punkass”, is often credited for becoming the original driving force behind the rapid sales growth of Mixed-Martial Arts clothing by paralleling their promotions with the UFC at a crucial time in the expansion of its popularity.

Rae of AMAM with the Crew

Originally, no one was buying much of their Tapout products, until the three partners decided to begin dressing up as original fictional charactors, wearing KISS-like makeup and futuristic “Rockstar” costumes, which they created themselves. Within a reasonably short amount of time, their clothing line began to really take off!

“I’m amazed and overwhelmed at what began to happen to the three of us after that”, Lewis once told AMAM Magazine, “We were being recognized everywhere we went.”

Tapout, Clothing, Inc. has since become a hugely successful multi-million dollar company and it’s own unique entity, reaching even further outside of MMA.

Charles “Mask” Lewis, Jr. will forever be sorely missed by his family, friends, co-workers, as well as by his many fans the entire world over.

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