It's not every day you meet a chief executive officer named "Punkass." Especially one who runs a $200 million company.
The heavily tattooed, bandana-wearing CEO fits right in at Tapout, a 140-employee clothing company in Grand Terrace, Calif., that caters to athletes and fans of mixed martial arts, a combat sport known for its brutality.
Apart from the name, what makes Punkass and his co-founders unique is the commitment they made more than a decade ago to a sport that was then virtually unknown. They took a gamble on a market that barely existed.
The risk? If the market didn't grow, TapouT would have nowhere to go. The reward? If the market exploded, they would be the first ones in.
Back in 1997, TapouT's three co-founders -- Dan "Punkass" Caldwell, Charles "Mask" Lewis and Tim "Skyskrape" Katz -- had no college degrees and little money. But all three had trained in mixed martial arts and were ardent fans of the sport. They were confident that someday, the sport would be accepted -- even embraced -- by a mainstream audience.
So they took the kind of leap that would make little sense to anyone but their fellow true believers: They maxed out their credit cards to start a small operation selling t-shirts at underground mixed martial arts competitions.
Back then, mixed martial arts was still a fledgling movement, well under the radar of other apparel companies. Today, it's almost as mainstream as boxing -- and TapouT's block-letter logo has become synonymous with the sport.
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