Q&A with 'Mask' from TapouT
The man won't deny it. And why should he?
But Lewis is also one of today's top entrepreneurs and the brains behind the mixed-martial-arts apparel company TapouT. Since starting the company out of the back of an rusty Mustang in 1997 with little more than a few pennies in his pocket, Lewis has guided TapouT to $22.5 million in sales -- nearly doubling their 2006 numbers. In 2008, the company is aiming for $100 million, while the following year, they plan to earn $225 million.
Lewis used his comic book knowledge to design cost-efficient, yet highly intriguing, ad campaigns and a logo that is recognized by everyone in MMA and many outside the sport. From the cage canvases and advertisement banners in arenas, to the back of fighters' shorts and everyday T-shirts of fans, TapouT is simply everywhere.
And the trio is like a walking billboard. At nearly every MMA event (sans the ones they're banned from) they sit ringside, supporting their fighters and brand.
Now add to the mix a reality show.
On July 30, the Crew kicks off Season 2 of their 10-episode reality series
Lewis has since traded in his beat-up Mustang for a tricked-out tour bus, and gets recognized for, not only his "eccentric" laugh, as he describes it, but also for his ambition in creating a megabrand out of and up-and-coming sport.
A stroke of good luck? The product of hard work? The work of a smart businessman? Sure. But if anything, the work of Mask and the TapouT team certainly makes you think twice about comics.
The first thing he said 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.'
The good thing about it was, I felt, if somebody had come along and was an underdog, that's three now: TapouT was an underdog -- I never went to design school or anything, just read way too many comic books and have a certain belief system and won't give up on stuff; the UFC, the sport, was underground -- it's still not legal in every state, making it an underdog sport with something to prove; and now here comes the VERSUS channel. The one thing
I'm like, join the club.
I don't look at in MMA for my competition, I look at the Nikes and the Adidas and the Reeboks needing to worry about TapouT. Basketball, football and boxing need to worry about mixed martial arts. ESPN, MTV2 and HBO need to worry about VERSUS. These are the underdogs. We've got nothing to lose. I liked that cartoon back in the day with the little dog with the 'U' on his chest. "Have no fear, Underdog is here." I think about that a lot.
I don't really watch reality shows, not because I love them or hate them, but because I don't watch a lot of TV. The only TV I watch, besides
The difference between Season 1 is, then, I had three days, I was nervous, I didn't know what to do, what to expect or how it was going to work. And I could see how nervous I was on film. I didn't know how I'd be perceived. I was getting kind of depressed on the road because I was worried I was being something different on camera than who I really am.
After Season 1, I was at a UFC event and I saw
Me and Skrape probably talk about that at least once a week. Kevin James thinks we're funny.
There are so many things, that I feel like I'm Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road and I'm trying to get to Oz, but I haven't even found the scarecrow or the tin man or the lion yet. I'm just focused on each next step and continuing on that rather than going, 'Oh look, I'm in a pretty little forest.' Who cares? We're trying to get to Oz here.
We are getting ready to make a shoe deal, though. CAA is helping us with that. Cross-training and running shoes. And I want to do all the gear. Everlast does everything for boxing. TapouT wants to do everything that fighter's train with, from bags, speed bags, fight gloves and wraps. TapouT wants to do all that for MMA.
Inevitably, will there be TapouT denim or TapouT jeans down the line? If I get to the level where I can work with people who can do it to the quality of regular every day wear at the level I appreciate, then I'll do that to. But you have to remember, I had an idea for the logo, I didn't go to school to be a designer. But I know the jeans I wear now and I know the level that it has to be at.