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Trainer: Olivier Dalipagic

A Night of Violence

Chicago, Summer 2005

I started boxing 17 years ago when I was 21, after I got sucker punched and knocked out in the streets of Chicago. I will never forget, the moment I regained consciousness. I was in a wheel chair with a stitched up lip, rolling down the hospital hallway towards my second MRI. After finding blood in my brain, the doctors were concerned. I had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of being punched in the back of the head and falling face first into the pavement.


After spending several months recovering from my injuries, I signed up for boxing classes at a gym in Pilsen, Chicago. My view of the world changed drastically after the life altering event that nearly killed me.  I knew I had to be prepared for the possibility of another unprovoked attack. I wanted to learn how to recognize threat, defend myself and avoid ending up in situations like these in the first place.


I was lucky to receive coaching from a former Olympic boxer at the gym in Pilsen. He made me realize how far I could push my physical limits. Hitting pads felt good, it released body tension and all my worries vanished. After training, the endorphins kicked in, I felt so relaxed and peaceful. As my confidence improved, I became consumed with thoughts of when I was going to hit the pads again. It was then that I decided to make boxing more than just a coping strategy, I made it the central focus of my life.

I soon found myself interested in exploring different fighting styles. I was drawn to "Savate" which is a form of French kickboxing.  "Savate" involves regular boxing punches, but also high kicks, low-kicks and push kicks.  After training hard and learning every day, my tenacity paid off. The foundational groundwork from my previous training was helpful to me when I discovered Muay Thaï a few years later. My journey took an interesting turn when I moved to France and collaborated with my best friend Nicolas Ott. He is a personal trainer who now trains UFC fighters, along with The French Olympic Karate Team. Nicolas consistently reminded me that Muay Thai is the most efficient striking sport on Earth. It was not long before I realized how accurate his claims were.


Nicolas and I filmed instructional videos and documentaries for Venum, a top UFC clothing brand at the time, with champions such as Sean Sherk, Wanderlei Silva and Rob Kaman. We wanted to film a show inspired by the combat sport reality show 'Fight Quest' and my producer suggested we start by filming living Muay Thai legend Jean-Charles Skarbowsky. I was fascinated to learn everything I could from this once in a lifetime opportunity. 


Filming Jean-Charles' class, my  perspective on fighting evolved in ways I could have never imagined. I was amazed by the extreme level of violence along with the concise, strategic techniques demonstrated by the fighters.  Additionally, the culture of Buddhism that is the corner stone of Muay Thai added an element of mystique that intrigued me. At that moment I knew Muay Thai was everything I had been searching for since the beginning of my martial arts journey.


I loved French Kickboxing, but Muay Thaï was a whole other ball game. The intense training was much more violent and effective than boxing or kickboxing but the sport also instilled respect for oneself and one's opponent. Muay Thaï had kicks, punches, knees & elbows, you could grab your opponent's legs and clinch work allowed you to throw people to the ground. I was so impressed by what I saw, I signed up immediately  to become one of Jean-Charles' most loyal students. I trained three years under him, 5 times a week, every week. Sick or injured, his students would still show up for class and work around their injuries, there were no excuses. 


During summer of 2012, Jean-Charles organized a trip to Bangkok for his students to train at Popteeratham Camp, owned and ran by Samart Payakaroon, the greatest Muay Thaï fighter of all time. Jean-Charles suggested I have a goal to fight at the end of my four week camp.


On the first day, the coach asked by show of hands, who among the students wanted to fight at the end of the month. Most raised their hands, eager to experience what it was to fight on the ring without protective gear, literally a fight to the death. I was impressed by their courage, but the prospect of getting knocked out on the ring left me feeling dubious.


Ironically, I was the only one left qualified to fight by the end of the camp. Nearly all of my fellow students made the choice to get tattoos (Sak Yant) by Buddhist monks. Their naive decisions disqualified them from being able to fight on the ring. The fresh inked scars needed to heal. After training 5 hours a day, 6 days a week in the hot and humid weather, many students were exhausted, injured, tattooed or all of the above, and consequently refused to fight on the ring.  The commitment to fight an opponent on the ring is daunting for most. It truly is the ultimate challenge, considering the kill or be killed outcome.


After the other students flew back home, I booked an extra week thinking I would lay on the beach eating lobster, celebrating my accomplishment.  But fate had other plans for me as I quickly ran out of money, forcing me to rethink my slothful plan.


I had to survive one last week before flying back to Paris.  Jean-Charles suggested that I follow him to World Muay Thaï Champion Stéphane Nikiéma’s camp in Pattaya for the August session. The only condition was that I had to fight on the ring at the end of the week. I weighed the pros and cons: starving or possibly getting knocked out. I had trained hard for years. Because my coach believed in me, I believed in myself.


Off we went, full speed on the back of a pick up truck towards Pattaya City, wind blowing in our hair and sunshine kissing our bruised cheeks. Knowing that all the foreign champions had started their fighting careers in Pattaya was exhilarating.  Upon our arrival, we observed ten fighters from around the world diligently preparing for an up coming fight. When Jean Charles presented me and announced I would be fighting that night, I knew there was no turning back.  


My body and mind had been preparing to fight for months. I had already incorporated the final preparations by running for hours a day, consuming a strict diet along with daily meditation. The intention was to shed superfluous body fat  and master my thoughts, allowing me to perform skillfully with every advantage necessary to win.  I was quite aware that every decision I made would either make me or break me in the ring.  I could not fail, nor could I deceive my coach.


Trusting my coach and instincts, my opponent was knocked out on the 3rd round with a flying knee kick. I had finally made it to the other side. Jean-Charles Skarbowsky was not only a phenomenal champion by being one of the best farangs to have fought in Thaïland, but he was a tremendous coach to me.


Having a great coach makes all the difference. He/she knows how you work under pressure, they know what to say, when to say in order for you to deliver your best on the ring AND at the gym. After training for over 17 years, I hope to share the conditioning and fight knowledge I have learned from the world's best champions such as my coach and good friend, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky.

- Olivier Dalipagic. 2021


Fight in Pattaya, Thailand. Summer 2013 


Win by knock out with a flying knee kick. Pattaya, summer 2013 


Stéphane Nikiéma's camp. Pattaya, 2013 


Champions Dany Bill and Jean-Charles Skarbowsky at the Skarbowsky Gym, Paris. 2014


Champion Rob Kaman in Venice Beach, California. 2014


Champion Silapathaï in Udon Thani, Thaïland. Summer 2013

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