Whether you grew up in the 1970’s, ’80’s, ’90’s or even within the past decade, everybody knows at least one friend, relative or acquaintance who is obsessed with the "Star Wars" movie franchise. It might just be watching the movies over and over again or camping out for a midnight screening of the latest film released, but Star Wars has become a cultural phenomenon that stretches over generations of fans.
Among the hordes of followers the space drama has drawn over the years is Dan "Punkass" Caldwell, who is best known in MMA circles as one of the founding members of the clothing brand TapouT. Caldwell has been supporting fighting in one form or another since the sport’s inception, going from selling T-shirts out of the back of his car all the way to becoming one of the biggest sponsors for fighters in the industry.
From that moment on he was hooked.
"I was just blown away; like, it changed my life," Caldwell told FOX Sports. "I decided that’s all I wanted, whenever anybody wanted to get me something for a birthday or Christmas or whatever, and I just kind of became somewhat obsessed. My parents had this Super 8 camera, and it filmed with no sound, and I started studying about stop-action film production and I wanted to make film and figure out how ‘Star Wars’ was made. Everything in me wanted to do that."
Caldwell’s love of "Star Wars" didn’t fade just because he grew older. Actually as he became a successful businessman with TapouT, it afforded him the luxury of owning some of the truly rare Star Wars collectibles that exist in the world. Caldwell actually has appeared on the Travel Channel series "Toy Hunter," on which he purchased one of the rarest of all Star Wars action figures, the never-before-released rocket-firing Boba Fett.
Now that may not mean a lot to you if you’re not a die-hard Star Wars fan, but the figure has sold at auction for more than $10,000 and when Caldwell spotted the rare piece, he had to have it.
The rare rocket firing Boba Fett
"The holy grail is the rocket firing Boba Fett. I read about this, but back in 1980 when ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ came out there was an option to send in proofs of purchase, and you could get Boba Fett and the rocket shot out of his backpack. What happened was the Battlestar Galactica line came out and it shot little rockets, and a kid ended up swallowing one of the rockets and they sued the company and because of that, Star Wars pulled that Boba Fett, but they still had the prototype pieces," Caldwell explained.
"That rocket-firing Boba Fett, there’s like nine in the world and I ended up buying one of those a couple of years ago."
Not to be outdone by his own collecting prowess, Caldwell just recently purchased a Star Wars Jawa figure with a vinyl cape from the "Pawn Stars" store in Las Vegas, which is regarded as another of the ultra rare Star Wars collectibles out there. From action figures to posters, Caldwell has more Star Wars stuff than you can imagine, but nothing can top meeting the man who created the entire universe, and it all came together because of MMA.
Amanda Lucas is an aspiring mixed martial artist with a 5-1 record, and she also happens to be the eldest daughter of "Star Wars" creator George Lucas. Caldwell says he was introduced to Lucas on a trip to Japan and the two struck up a friendship that eventually resulted in a trip to the legendary Skywalker Ranch in California.
"George Lucas’ daughter is actually a fighter and she’s a champion in Japan. I don’t know if you ever saw her entrance but she comes in with storm troopers to the ‘Imperial March’, it’s crazy, it’s so sick. But I’m friends with her and I met her in Japan and someone was like ‘This is George Lucas’ daughter’ and it was so crazy to me, like I couldn’t even believe that was possible. I was like, my two universes are colliding! And I didn’t want to be too creepy, I didn’t want to be that guy, so I wanted to be like ‘I’m a fan of what your dad does’ and I’m a fan of what she does, too, but what I would have done is stand on a table and yell ‘Star Wars!’ at the top of my lungs, but I restrained myself," Caldwell said.
"We became friends and I’ve become friends with her husband and they are just such nice, generous people."
It was on the trip to Skywalker Ranch and tour of the facilities that Amanda made the suggestion of meeting with her father, and Caldwell’s fanboy heart felt like it was going to burst through his chest.
"I got to go up there and did the tour and bought a Star Wars toaster for the house and afterwards she was like ‘Let’s go to my dad’s house.’ So I’m like, ‘What?’ I just wanted to jump out of my skin at that point," Caldwell said with a laugh.
"So we go over to her dad’s house and we got to sit and ask questions about all these things he’s done, talk about his daughter fighting and I got to take a picture with him."
While Caldwell’s imprint on MMA will last forever with the brand he helped found, it was meeting Lucas for the first time that made a little kid’s dream come true. Growing up in poverty, Caldwell just wanted to make it out of that situation and do something great with his life.
Now he can say he’s done that and more.
"I always said growing up, and I grew up pretty poor, that when I got older I wasn’t going to be what I was surrounded by, this mediocrity I was surrounded by," Caldwell said. "So I just told myself I’m going to have something different for myself and watching these things come together, things just happen. All my universe started coming together, that I’m involved in fighting and then people I idolized as a kid like George Lucas and Star Wars, it’s just an incredible feeling you can’t recreate and it’s just life-changing."