(In this article, I round up 14 of the best foreign Muay Thai fighters in the history of the sport.)
Muay Thai is a sport dominated by Thais for obvious reasons. It is the country’s national sport and many Thai fighters are literally born into the sport. Many of them grow up under the influence of family members who are fighters and all start training from a very young age.
However, a number of foreign fighters have found varying degrees of success in Muay Thai history to this day. Some of the best foreign Muay Thai fighters even go on to win the most prestigious titles of the sport.
The 90s to early 2000s was a golden era for foreign Muay Farangs (foreign fighters, usually of Western descent). This period saw a growing number of martial artists who arrive in Thailand from all over the world to train and compete.
Many legendary Muay Farangs competed during this period at stadiums like Lumpinee and Rajadamnern, paving the way for the influx of foreign fighters who followed.
Best Foreign Muay Thai Fighters
In no particular order, here are my picks for the best non-Thai fighters to have competed in Muay Thai over the years:
Ramon “The Diamond” Dekkers is arguably the most well-known foreign Muay Thai fighter of all time.
He was one of the pioneers in the foreign invasion into Muay Thai, making his Thai debut when he fought golden era legend, Numphon Nongkeepayayuth at Lumpinee Stadium in 1990.
Dekkers fought many top Thai fighters of the time including Namkabuan Nongkeepayayuth, Orono Por Muang-Ubol, Superlek Sorn Esarn, Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj and Jaroenthong Kiatbaanchong.
He is best remembered by many Thai fans for his legendary rivalry and memorable wars against Coban Lookchaomaesaitong.
Despite a series of wins and titles in kickboxing, Dekkers found less success when he transitioned to full Muay Thai rules.
Dekkers’ fast-paced and aggressive Dutch kickboxing style often left him on the losing end against the technical Thai fighters who were more familiar with the scoring system. But he never gave up.
After a failed Lumpinee championship campaign in 1990 against Issara Sakgreerin, Dekkers was never given another shot at a Thai stadium title. He has never held any of the prestigious stadium titles of Thailand but his incredible heart and ability were never questioned.
Dekkers’ ferocious fighting style and resolute determination inspired a generation of western fighters to take up the art of 8 limbs. “The Diamond” passed away in 2013 at the age of 43 but will always be remembered as one of the foreign Muay Thai greats in history.
Kickboxing first boomed in Japan in the 1960s and 70s. During this period, fight cards featuring Japanese kickboxers vs Muay Thai fighters were regularly broadcasted on national TV.
The All Japan Kickboxing Association (AJKA) was formed during this period and events frequently hosted Nak Muays from Thailand. One of AJKA’s and Japan’s most famous champions was Fujiwara Toshio (藤原 敏男).
Originally trained in the Japanese kickboxing style, Fujiwara had great boxing-style footwork, and devastating punches that helped him clinch 99 KO victories out of 126 wins in his career.
Between 1971 to 1980, Fujiwara would travel to Thailand to train, learn and compete in Muay Thai. He faced over 100 Thai opponents in his career, winning 77 times by KO and 19 by points.
He also became the first non-Thai to win a Thailand belt when he beat Mongsawan Ruk Changmai (in Japan) for the Rajadamnern lightweight title in 1978.
Fujiwara was awarded the “sportsman of the year” twice in his home country, an award that is usually given to athletes in sumo, football or baseball.
Dany Bill is a Cameroonian fighter who grew up in France. A contemporary of Ramon Dekkers, he competed professionally for almost the entirety of the 90s.
If you ask the purists, they will tell you that Bill was the real MVP of foreign Nak Muays in the 90s.
Bill was fearless in his pursuit and took on the best Thai fighters of the time. But unlike many of his peers, he was adept in the Thai style and was well-versed with the rules of the game.
He was one of the most technical foreign Nak Muays of his time, with great precision and textbook sweeping techniques.
The Muay Farang won his first world title when he took on then-Lumpinee champion, Den Muangsurin at the prestigious King’s Birthday event. Bill went on to defend the title on 6 different occasions.
Over a decade, Bill fought and won against Thai champions like Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj, Orono Por Muang-Ubol, Vichan Chorrotchai and the late, great Nokweed Davy himself. He has also challenged Sakmongkol Sittchuchok, Coban Lookchaomaesaitong, Kaolan Kaovichit.
Bill also faced Ramon Dekkers in 1997 where he outscored The Diamond for a unanimous decision victory.
Dany Bill is now a Muay Thai trainer and regularly travels for seminars around the world.
John Wayne Parr
The finest and most famous Muay Thai fighter from the land down under. John Wayne Parr (JWP) needs little introduction for fans to the world of Muay Thai.
JWP started competing professionally in 1992 at the age of 16. He moved to Thailand in 1996 where he stayed on for 4 years, living and training alongside Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj.
For over 2 decades, JWP was a prolific competitor, taking part in both Muay Thai, kickboxing and boxing bouts around the world.
Parr was nicknamed “The Gunslinger” for his cowboy antics during his Wai Kru performance. He fought many top Thais during the years in Thailand.
Some of his more memorable bouts were made against names like Orono Por Muang-Ubol, Superlek Sor E-sarn, Sakmongkol Sittchuchok, and Lamsongkram Chuwattana.
However, he is remembered for his bouts against Buakaw Banchamek (then Buakaw Por Pramuk) and of course, Yodsanklai Fairtex. JWP’s claim to global fame came in 2007 from his appearance on The Contender Asia reality series, where he was the runner-up in the contest after losing to Yodsanklai.
But much more than his fight record, Parr’s all-out fighting style helped end half his wins by knockouts as well as a generation of international fight fans.
John Wayne Parr owns and runs Boonchu Gym in Gold Coast, Australia. He retired briefly in 2012 but came out of retirement a year later. Parr continues to compete and signed a contract with One Championship in March of 2020.
To read more on JWP’s illustrious career, check out “John Wayne Parr: Legend of the Gunslinger“.
Towards the later half of the 90s, another French arrived on the shores of Thailand looking to make his mark in the sport.
A former kickboxer and 3-time European Muay Thai champion, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky would go on to become a number one ranked fighter at Rajadamnern Stadium.
The Frenchman was a solid puncher like many from the West, but his teeps and knees made him a force to be reckoned with. Skarbowsky ended 51 out his 75 wins by way of knockout.
Although he was never granted a title shot at Rajadamnern where he often fought, Skarbowsky was the first westerner to rank at the top spot at the famed stadium twice. First in 2003 and again in 2006. This was not an easy feat and one that few foreigners have achieved even to this day.
Skarbowsky’s ties with Muay Thai and Thailand did not end after his career. He now runs two Muay Thai gyms, one located in Bangkok, and organizes the grand “Best of Siam” event annually at one of the prestigious stadiums of the Thai capital.
Mourad Sari is a French-Algerian fighter who deserves a quick mention on the list for being the first non-Thai to win the Lumpinee Stadium title.
Like many Europeans, Mourad competed in kickboxing and Muay Thai bouts, finding success in both endeavors.
He was especially destructive with his left kicks and hooks, although his style leaned more towards an European flavor.
Unlike the other farangs who made the list, Morad trained almost exclusively in his home country even when he was scheduled to fight in Thailand.
Other than a one-month stint at the renowned golden era gym, Pinsinchai, Morad often arrived in Thailand, cut weight, fought and left. But it worked well for him.
Some of Morad’s stellar moments include wins against Samkor Kiatmontep, Orono Por Muang-Ubol, Sakmongkol Sitchuchok, Kaolan Kaovichit, and a draw with Buakaw.
Mourad won the Lumpinee stadium belt in 1999, beating Somchai Sor Nantana at 140lbs. Before he retired, Mourad held a record of 89 wins in 149 appearances and 59 by KO.
Another French Nak Muay to add to the list, Damien Alamos is notable as the second non-Thai fighter to win a Lumpinee champion title following Mourad Sari.
Alamos started training Muay Thai at 10 and arrived in Thailand when he was 19, training and fighting full time.
The French legend trained at different camps including Por Pramuk (with Buakaw and Namsaknoi), Jockey Gym, Lukbanyai and Somrak Khamsing’s gym before settling at Singpatong in Phuket.
After a string of wins in Bangkok, Alamos was given a shot for the WPMF world championship belt in 2010. He defeated his opponent at Lumpinee stadium to bring home his first world title.
Alamos then went on to win the Lumpinee Super Lightweight title in 2012 against Kongfah Uddonmuang, and the WMC world title against Kongbeng Mor Ratanabandit in 2013. He defended his Lumpinee title twice and is one of the rare few foreigners to have fought at Channel 7 stadium.
Alamos fought with a classic Thai style, beating the Thais at their game. He held wins against Diesellek Adommuang, Chok EminentAir, and Omnoi champion, Saksongkram Poptheeratam. He also faced champions like Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong, Orono Wor Petchpun and Saenchai over his career.
The French Nak Muay is now a full-time coach in London, traveling around the UK to teach after retiring from competing in 2014.
Yes, it’s another French and one of this generation’s finest. Fabio Pinca has fought the best, beaten many of the best, and owns accolades of the highest honor.
Pinca’s long list of championship titles include WBC world welterweight, Lion Fight, ISKA, Thai Fight tournament, and of course his prized Rajadamnern Stadium title in 2017.
A striking powerhouse in his own right, Pinca excelled in using all weapons of the 8 limbs. He started training Muay Thai at 15 and was heavily influenced by European Nak Muays like Ramon Dekkers and Dany Bill.
Pinca’s fight record reads like a who’s who list of Muay Thai. He has fought modern legends such as Kem Sitsongpeenong, Attachai Fairtex, Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong, Saiyok Pumpammuang, and pound-for-pound great, Nong-O Kaiyanghadao.
Pinca beat many at the top of the game including champions like Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee, Petchmankong Petchfocus, Malaipet Sasiprapa, and Liam Harrison.
The crown jewel of Pinca’s fight record is no doubt his win against Saenchai in 2012. He may be best known as being the only foreign fighter to have won against the living legend.
There is no dispute when it comes to Fabio Pinca’s well-deserved place on the list.
Outside of France, the UK is another European country known for its thriving Muay Thai scene. The most well-known of English fighters must be no other than Liam “The Hitman” Harrison.
Harrison has one of the best left hooks in the sport as well as his notoriously leg-crippling low kicks. His low-kick knockouts are a whole different level.
The multi-time world champion built his career fighting against many of the toughest guys in the sport.
Never one to shy away from challenges, Harrison has taken on Muay Thai champions like Sagetdao Petchphayathai, Malaipet Sasiprapa, Phetmorakot Wor Sangprapai, Pakorn PKSaenchaiGym, Singdam Kiatmoo9, and Anuwat Kaewsamrit.
Not forgetting three explosive meetings in the ring with the GOAT, Saenchai. Saenchai has on record cited Harrison as the toughest farang he has ever fought.
Win or lose, Harrison always goes all-in from the get-go, leaving nothing in the tank. This is what makes him a favorite with fight fans around the world as he continues to compete actively on ONE Championship and Yokkao events.
To read more on Harriosn’s exciting career, check out “Liam Harrison: Muay Thai’s Hitman“.
More than twenty years after Toshio Fujiwara’s crowning as the first non-Thai Rajadamnern stadium, Kozo Takeda (武田幸三) kicked off the second wave of Japanese invasion into Muay Thai.
Takeda is a 5th-dan Karate black belt who competed largely under kickboxing rules. He was a fiercely aggressive fighter with hard-hitting punches and even harder low kicks.
Takeda was not always the most technical of fighters but he makes up for it with unbreakable toughness. The stuff of Samurai legends.
Nicknamed the “Super Alloy Muscle” (超合筋), Takeda competed almost exclusively in Japan under both kickboxing and Muay Thai rules. He was a SNKA veteran and a regular on K1 during the promotion’s heydays.
Takeda fought against a long list of Thai opponents over his career, capturing the Rajadamnern stadium welterweight title in 2001 when he defeated Chalarmdam Sittrattrakarn. The second Japanese in history to claim a Rajadamnern belt.
Japan has had a long-standing relationship with Thailand’s Muay Thai industry.
Japanese kickboxers and Muay Thai fighters frequently train and compete in Thailand while Japanese promotions regularly invite Thai fighters to their events.
Following Kozo Takeda, the next Japanese to make an impact on the sport of Muay Thai was Hiroki Ishii (石井 宏樹).
Ishii rarely fought outside of Japan, but he never relied on “homeground advantage” to win by favorable decisions.
He was a knockout artist versatile with all the weapons of Muay Thai and a smashing 50% KO rate. High kicks, low kicks, body shots, head shots, elbow strikes, he has finished a fight with basically all the weapons available to a Nak Muay.
After 3 failed campaigns, Ishii claimed the Rajadamnern Super Lightweight title in 2011. He defended the title twice before losing the title to Aikpet Mor Krongthepthonburi in 2013.
Ishii retired in 2014 with a record of 55 wins (27 knockouts), 13 losses and 10 draws.
Japan has her fair share of producing many of Muay Thai’s best (non-Thai) fighters in recent years, long after the days of Toshio Fujiwara.
Besides Kozo Takeda and Hiroki Ishii, Genji Umeno (梅野 源治) is another accomplished Japanese Muay Thai fighter of the last decade.
Umeno is a true Muay Thai champion and modern great, who fought with a technical Thai style backed by strong punches. He was a true warrior, competing against the Thai fighters of the highest order.
Some of his elite opponents in the past include Kaew Fairtex, Phetmorakot Wor Sangprapai, Seksan Or Kwanmuang, Rodlek PKSaenchaiGym and Kulabdam Sor Jor PiekUThai.
Umeno also holds notable wins over champions like Pornsanae Sitmonchai and Muangthai PKSaenchaiGym, both via KO. Not forgetting the victory over Yodlekpet Or Pitisak in 2016 which landed him a Rajadamnern title.
Quite possibly the most decorated and the best pound-for-pound non-Thai Nak Muay today. Belgian-Morrocan fighter, Youssef Boughanem has achieved what no other farang has done before.
Between 2015 to 2020, Boughanem went nearly undefeated in 30 fights with a draw and only 2 losses by decision.
During this period, he captured the Omnoi stadium title, a Thai Fight tournament title, the WBC middleweight belt and most impressively, both the Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadium titles.
Boughanem is the only farang to have won both the Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadium belts, setting the bar high for foreign fighters that follow.
The Belgian first arrived in Thailand in 2007 at the age of 17, and over his career, faced nothing less than the country’s best. Boughanem has gone toe-to-toe with Saiyok Pumpanmuang, knocked out Kanongsuk Chuwattana, and won against Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee and Chanajon PKSaenchaiGym.
Boughanem owns and runs Petchsaman Gym in Pattaya city, a top camp for producing high-level fighters including his own brother, Yassine, a WBC heavyweight champion.
Rafi Bohic, also known as Rafi Singpatong, is one of the best farangs on the elite stadium circuit today.
He is known to be a formidable Muay Bouk (aggressive fighter) but sharpened his skills over time to be an equally effective Muak Fimeu (technical fighter).
The French fighter moved to Thailand when he was 20, training very briefly in Pattaya before switching camp to Singpatong gym on Phuket island. There, he trained with fellow French Muay Thai legend, Damien Alamos.
After 8 years in Thailand, Bohic built a name for himself as one of the finest fighters in the scene.
The French fighter holds titles from MAX Muay Thai tournament (2014), WMC (2013), and WBC Muay Thai. Rafi is more notably, a Lumpinee champion and the third foreigner in history to win a Lumpinee belt.
Since winning the Lumpinee belt in 2017 on a second occasion, Rafi has successfully defended his title 4 times.
He hasn’t stayed stagnant or complacent even after beating top competitors in his weight class like Thanonchai Rachanon, Kongsak PKSaenchaiGym, Pongsiri PKSaenchaiGym, Manachai YokkaoSaenchaiGym, Chamuaktong Fightermuaythai and Yodpanomrung Jitmuangnon.
Rafi continued to push his boundaries by challenging the best of the best. Last year, he picked up three losses against Sangmanee, Yodlekpet and Chujaroen before bouncing back and taking a win over Pakorn PKSaenchaiGym.
The 29-year-old signed on with One Championship this year. He was set to make his debut against Nong-O Kaiyanghadao for the Bantamweight title but later pulled out due to injury.
Jose Mendonca (2013 Rajadamnern Champion), Jimmy Vienot (2019 Lumpinee Champion), Kaito Wor Wanchai (first and only non-Thai Thailand champion), Stephan Nikieman (French pioneer), Ronnie Green (UK pioneer).
Who else do you think should be on the list of the Best Foreign Muay Thai fighters? Leave a comment down below!