One year ago today, Charles Lewis died.
The gregarious, preternaturally motivating co-founder of Tapout instantly lost his life around 1 a.m. on Mar. 11, 2009, when Jeffrey David Kirby is alleged to have drunkenly caused Lewis' red Ferrari to slam into a pole on a long, quiet stretch of road in Newport Beach, Calif.
Memories of Lewis, aka "Mask," don't fade. They burst. But for filmmaker Bobby Razak on Wednesday, they also brought a considerable amount of sorrow.
"It just really hit me," Razak said as he prepared to edit together one more memorial video in honor of his friend, who passed at the age of 45.
Razak met "Mask" at a small Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament on the California circuit in 1997. The young filmmaker -- freshly in the U.S. from England with a grand in his pocket and the belief that he would make good on his dreams -- quickly learned everything he needed to know about Lewis.
Setting up shop at a folding table, "Mask," who at the time was living out of a car that doubled as his showroom and distribution center, offered one item, a simple red T-shirt emblazoned with the ubiquitous Tapout logo. He made $80 that day before giving almost half to Razak after the Brit mentioned trouble with misplaced funds.
When he could, Razak used Tapout in his filmmaking, including a 2001 documentary dubbed Rites of Passage that put his work on the map.
"A lot of my success is due to collaboration with him," Razak said. "I'll never forget, man, he gave me $35 the first day I ever met him. Thirteen years later that tells me who Charles Lewis was."
In addition to other filmmaking duties, Razak produces commercials and similar long-form projects for Tapout. Over the last few months, he focused on Underdog, a documentary about the rise of MMA that, unfortunately, is the final project of their collaboration.
"His spirit is still there. We're still interacting and it's really bizarre when I see his image," Razak said of his friend. "I feel like he communicates with me a little bit. I feel him very strongly while I'm editing because I use a lot of his imagery in Underdog, so I see him day in, day out."
There have been some eerie times in the edit bay.
As Razak pieced together a video for Lewis' memorial services, his computer froze on a shot of "Mask" hugging Justin Eilers, a mixed martial artist who was shot to death in 2008 by his stepfather.
"That's one of many things that happened," Razak said. "I equated it to Charles saying, 'Don't forget Justin, too.' So I put Justin in Charles' tribute."
Throughout the process, Razak continued to learn about Lewis' relationships.
"Charlie always had these special moment with individuals," Razak said. "He had this one form of connection with you that you thought was very special. As I was filming Underdog I found out that hundreds of people had those moments."
Lewis. Mask. Tapout. They touched many lives. As Razak pieced together the short tribute commemorating an unfortunate anniversary, he found inspiration in recordings he conducted with Lewis two days before the accident.
"He was kind of talking about if he does die, what he'll do and move on," Razak said. "It's really eerie stuff about him not being here anymore."
Kirby, now 52, is expected to stand trial on charges of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated, one felony count of driving under influence causing bodily injury, and sentencing enhancements for fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter and causing great bodily injury to multiple victims.
A pre-trial trial setting conference is scheduled for April 2, the Orange County district attorney's office told SI.com.
UFC has one week to decide on Strikeforce, CBS counter
According to Tennessee State Athletic Commission regulations, Zuffa has until Thursday, March 18, to file an event permit application should the Las Vegas-based promotional company wish to counter Strikeforce's April 17 date in Nashville.
Tennessee executive director Jeff Mullen told SI.com on Wednesday that promoters are required to submit an application with the state no less than 30 days in advance of their requested date.
After Strikeforce and CBS officially announced April 17 at the Bridgestone Arena as the venue for their next show, rumors swirled that executives from UFC and SpikeTV were considering adding an event on the same night in the same town.
Should UFC opt to move forward, and to this point it has not informed Mullen it would, April 17 marks the first time Tennessee is tasked with overseeing two major events on the same night.
"We would have to really look at how things are developing and we'd probably have to borrow some manpower from somewhere," Mullen said of the commission's ability to handle both events. "It would be way bigger than anything we've ever done, but I don't think it's something we couldn't do, we'd just have to make some unusual arrangements to make it work."
In 2009, Tennessee was the only state outside Nevada to host multiple UFC cards.
Initial ticket sales for Strikeforce, which features title fights in the organization's light heavyweight, middleweight and lightweight divisions, project over 300 percent stronger than the company's effort at the end of January in Sunrise, Fla., according to Strikeforce founder and CEO Scott Coker.
"I'm very happy," Coker texted. "Early indicators are equal to the large fights we have hosted in San Jose -- Carano, Shamrock-Diaz."
Strikeforce and CBS officials suggested last week that they would be willing to push back their event to April 24 if UFC counter-programmed, though that seems unlikely now, sources said.