Jean-Charles Skarbowsky has carved out a name for himself as a living legend in the world of Muay Thai. Emerging from France, a country not traditionally associated with the Art of Eight Limbs, Skarbowsky has defied geographical and cultural barriers to attain multiple Muay Thai championships.
What made Jean-Charles Skarbowsky stand out was his aggressive fighting techniques and a rigorous understanding of Muay Thai mechanics. These have earned him both respect and distinction in international competitions.
Skarbowsky’s contributions extend beyond the iconic Stadiums of Thailand. He gained wider recognition when he served as a striking coach on the popular reality TV series The Ultimate Fighter, where he worked alongside mixed martial arts (MMA) all-time great Georges St-Pierre. His tenure on the show introduced unconventional training methodologies that sparked dialogue within the martial arts community, thus enhancing his profile beyond traditional Muay Thai circles.
Who is Jean-Charles Skarbowsky?
|Name:||Jean-Charles Skarbowsky or Chong Starbowsky|
|Date of Birth:||March 10, 1975|
|Place of Birth:||Paris, France|
|Nickname:||The Tattooed Dragon|
|Height:||1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|Weight:||63–73 kg (139–161lbs)|
|Record(s):||75 – 23 -3 (51 knockouts)|
|Years Active:||1992 – 2006|
|World Championships:||Number one ranked fighter in Rajadamnern Stadium|
Jean-Charles Skarbowsky was born on March 10, 1975, in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, France. His upbringing was deeply influenced by his parents’ hardships. His mother, an immigrant from Romania who moved to France at the age of 25 with nearly nothing, instilled in him a sense of fortitude. His father, who tragically passed away when Skarbowsky was just 13 years old, was another great influence in his life. The lessons Skarbowsky gleaned from his parents during his upbringing would have a profound impact on his future fighting spirit and mentality.
The loss of his father at age 13 led Skarbowsky through an emotionally challenging period. During this time, he found purpose in boxing. The pivotal moment came in 1991 when Skarbowsky, then 16 years old, discovered the gym Siam Boxing located in Paris’s 12th district. It was owned and operated by Master Andre Zeitoun, a highly regarded figure in the world of Thai boxing.
A bit of an odd detail given his future success, but Jean-Charles actually did not enjoy Muay Thai at first. Initially, he found the sport difficult, he even planned to quit. However, a borrowed pair of Thai boxing shorts from Andre Zeitoun led to an unexpected turning point. When he went to return the shorts to Zeitoun, just to be polite, Skarbowsky ultimately decided to persist in his Muay Thai training. This moment marked the beginning of a lifelong mentorship between Zeitoun and Skarbowsky.
Rise to Prominence in Muay Thai
In 1993, at the young age of 18, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky made the decision to leave for Thailand, the mecca of Muay Thai. This decision paid dividends; he participated in five bouts and emerged victorious in each one, a remarkable accomplishment that signalled his potential for future greatness.
Shortly after returning to France, Skarbowsky continued his upward trajectory with a string of rapid victories, solidifying his position as the number-one contender for the European Muay Thai Championship. He was the underdog against Belgian fighter Yiguin Osman. Despite the odds, Skarbowsky displayed extraordinary skill and resilience. Applying consistent and intense pressure on Osman throughout the fight. In a post-match interview, Osman conceded that he had never faced a boxer who hit as hard as Skarbowsky. At merely 20 years old Jean-Charles Skarbowsky became the European Muay Thai Champion.
Sometime later, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky moved to Bangkok full-time and began training at the famed Jocky Gym in Thailand alongside Muay Thai stars such as Saenchai, Lerdsila, and Kaoklai. Here, Skarbowsky was exposed to the highest echelons of the sport.
One of the striking features of his career is his consistent record against Thai champions. With his formidable punching power, he knocked out some of the finest fighters of his era, including Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadium champions such as Sak Kaoponlek, Khunsuk Petchsupapan, Orono Por Muang Ubon, and Chokdee Por Pramuk, among others.
In 2003, he achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first non-Thai fighter to be ranked Number 1 at the Rajadamnern Stadium, following his knockout victory over Munkong Kiatsomkuan in the 140 lbs category. This feat was repeated in 2006, when he once again claimed the top spot in the Rajadamnern rankings, this time in the 160 lbs category, after a knockout win over two-time Stadium champion Lamsongkram Chuwattana. It was his unorthodox style and incredible power that caused many of his opponents to struggle.
Jean-Charles Skarbowsky also had notable matches against legends such as Buakaw Banchamek, and John Wayne Parr, among many others.
Speaking on his time there, the French-born athlete discussed in an interview what Muay Thai can teach a person. He said:
“In Thailand as in France. It represents a part of the honour, the bravery, the pride if only to step into the ring. It is also the school of humility because when you arrive in a room you suffer, you see that you are not good, and that there is work. There is also stringency. Afterwards, it will be up to us to transmit these values to others.”
Throughout the course of his career, he faced the dangerous striker Khunsuk Petchsupapan in a whopping five bouts, of which, the French-born athlete walked away with victory in four of them. For Jean-Charles Skarbowsky, it was an honour. In a later interview, he explained:
“It is a pleasure. At the beginning, it me impressed but after every fight that I met it, I each time said “I am better than him” and mentally it is what me made it possible to beat it. For our last fight, I completely dominated.”
The Ultimate Fighter and Georges St-Pierre
In season 12 of the UFC-operated reality show The Ultimate Fighter, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky was brought in as a guest striking coach to work with Georges St-Pierre’s team. Canada’s Georges St-Pierre is a former two-division UFC world champion and an all-time great in MMA history.
On the broadcast, it appeared that Jean-Charles Skarbowsky showed up and beat up each contestant in sparring. St-Pierre even warned his students not to mess around with Skarbowsky as he is highly dangerous. Behind the scenes, legend has it the French Muay Thai striker was drinking wine during the training sessions. This all added to the legend of Jean-Charles Skarbowsky.
In an interview with Joe Rogan, Georges St-Pierre recalled how invaluable this experience was:
“I remember the producer of the show The Ultimate Fighter, [Jean-Charles Skarbowsky] was supposed to stay one week, and when he was about to [leave] the producer said, “Can we keep him for the rest of the show?” Because he was good TV … The knowledge this guy had, he gave us a big edge. Jean-Charles is a different extreme.”
In an interview several years later, Skarbowsky discussed his time on the show. He explained:
“I assure you I was as soft as possible, and when I first kicked a TUF-er, I was scarred to hurt them because they never really received a muay thai kick in their lives. And there were no accidents …It means I control everything in the sparring session“
In another interview, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky explained that on day one it was important to show off the best moves in sparring against these students or else they would not respect him. He added that on day two, each fighter under his tutelage listened intently to his instruction and learned quite a bit.
He continues to build his legacy by imparting the knowledge he has earned through decades of Muay Thai training and fighting. Currently, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky is running and operating the Skarbowsky Gym in Paris, France. Here, the French striking legend is teaching the next generation of greats.
Jean-Charles Skarbowsky’s career is not just a chronicle of wins and losses—it is a testament to the spirit of a fighter who always pushed the boundaries. From his early years shaped by personal tragedy to his meteoric rise in the world of Muay Thai. Skarbowsky has proven himself as one of the most formidable fighters of his generation. His achievements, notably becoming the first non-Thai ranked Number 1 in Rajadamnern Stadium.
Beyond his personal accolades, Skarbowsky’s influence as a striking coach on The Ultimate Fighter underscores his contributions to combat sports. In this role, he not only elevated the skillsets of budding MMA fighters but also supplemented the sport by introducing a blend of Muay Thai techniques and philosophies to a wider audience who likely had never seen some of this before.
As his nickname “The Tattooed Dragon” resonates in fighting circles worldwide, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky stands as a symbol of what can be achieved through a combination of relentless training and unyielding willpower. Whether in the rings of Thailand or the training mats of reality TV, Skarbowsky leaves a legacy that transcends national boundaries and disciplinary confines. This solidifies his status as a true legend of Muay Thai.
Timothy Wheaton is a combat sports writer who covers MMA, Kickboxing, and Muay Thai. Tim is the authority on kickboxing and combat sports journalist who has covered K-1, PRIDE FC, UFC, GLORY Kickboxing, Bellator, ONE Championship, and plenty more.