It’s hard to believe a tall white guy in patchwork clothes and an afro wig wants to be inconspicuous but come fight time, Tim Katz is just there to watch the show like every other fan.
But Katz isn’t like every other fan. Known throughout MMA as “Skyscrape,” Katz and his friends Dan “Punkass” Caldwell and the late Charles “Mask” Lewis, built the TapouT apparel brand from the trunk of Lewis’ car to one of the primary sponsors of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and it’s fighters. Katz recalls the night that the company’s iconic logo first appeared inside the Octagon.
It was UFC 17 in Mobile, Ala. Pat Miletich cornered Jeremy Horn that May night in 1998 wearing a black hat with a red and white logo TapouT logo. “That was the first time anyone was seeing it and we were sitting at this bar,” says Katz, “It was Riverside [Calif.], it was some bar-restaurant place we went to go watch it at, and it was kinda crazy to see it, but we knew, even back then, that one day that logo was gonna be known world-wide.”
The TapouT logo is known worldwide, thanks in part to the post-“Ultimate Fighter” boom in the popularity of mixed martial arts. The company grosses in excess of $20 million each year but Katz’s favorite memories all come from a time when fighters, promoters, and sponsors were all barely scraping by.
“We found Josh Barnett in Hawaii in SuperBrawl shows,” say Katz. “This big white kid that just looked horribly out of shape but he’s kicking everybody’s ass.”
TapouT believed in him, even walking him down the ramp at o his UFC 36 title bout with Randy Couture. Barnett won soundly, proving that Katz & Co. had a good eye for talent. The TapouT crew was instrumental in scouting another great MMA talent, a kid by the name of Diego Sanchez.
“Dana White supposedly had the cast set of 16 [fighters] and he kicked somebody off the [first season of the Ultimate Fighter] to put [Sanchez in the house] off of our word,” says Katz, “and Diego goes on to win.”
The TapouT crew is committed to fighters, to the extent that Lewis was willing to eat a knee from Tito Ortiz and an elbow from Chuck Liddell on the cover of the original UFC video games to spare a fighter the embarrassment.
“Nobody wanted to be on the losing end on the cover of a video game getting punched or getting kneed or something,” said Katz. It was a small price to pay for immortality.