After 23-years of working on Wall Street, Cyrus Pakravan decided to leave his job in the financial industry. Mr. Pakravan had come to a crossroads. He could continue working in finance, or he could follow his dreams and passion for the martial arts. Mr. Pakravan chose the latter and began forging a new path.
Part of the decision was made due to the untimely illnesses that overtook his parents’ lives. It was an eye-opening moment as Mr. Pakravan took care of the two most influential people in his life. It took all the energy he had to help his mother and father, while raising his own children. Now, he is putting that energy into his own martial arts influenced clothing line known as Giraffe Choke.
Mr. Pakravan saw that the mixed martial arts and combat sports world had clothing only focused on violence. So, he did something about it and began creating unique and fun apparel and accessories that he coined as “technique gear”.
Totalprestige Magazine recently caught up with Mr. Pakravan to learn more about Giraffe Choke, his life and career.
Cyrus, you’ve led an interesting life that saw you walk away from a job on Wall Street to follow your martial arts dream. Firstly, how did you become involved with martial arts and tell me about some of the training you experienced?
I don’t think that you can ever really “walk away” from Wall Street after a 23-year career in financial markets. I check up on markets daily but not as intensely as I used to. When I was six-years old, I became enamored with Bruce Lee and the martial arts. By the time I was 17, I immersed myself in a Korean-based martial art style called Won Hwa Do. I chose it, because at the time, it was the closest to a singular complete style. I practiced Won Hwa Do for six years and earned a national championship – it became an integral part of my life. I have since lived in Washington DC, New York City, Connecticut and South Florida; therefore, I was able to train in many styles and systems such as Wing Chun, kickboxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I always loved the competition in martial arts along with the discipline that it helps you develop over time. These attributes certainly helped me incorporate structure in my life. I think my 31-years in martial arts have undoubtedly helped me overcome many difficult periods in my life. I’ve lived in five countries and four states, had a tumultuous Wall Street career, took care of my sick parents while raising my own children – it’s been a roller coaster to say the least. I’d say the mental aspect of martial arts training has helped me stay somewhat sane during my crazy journey.
Mixed martial arts is one of the most popular sports in the world today thanks to the UFC, which began in the early 1990s. Did MMA and its rise in popularity help you with your decision to leave Wall Street?
I’ve always enjoyed following the UFC and in my opinion, MMA is the most misunderstood sport in the world, but I wouldn’t say it was the reason I left my Wall Street career. I worked in a business model that revolved around market volatility and we had abnormally low volatility levels for years. At the time, I had been training a lot in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and realized that there really weren’t any fun brands in the market. I started to indepthly research the space.
In early 2018, Giraffe Choke began designing and selling clothing. What influenced your decision to release a line of merchandise?
I felt there weren’t any fun brands in the market. Most brands depict aggression and violence. There really aren’t any brands that express the camaraderie you develop and fun that you have with your training partners. We are always pranking and joking with each other, but if you just look from the outside, it can seem intimidating.
In a previous interview, it stated you “couldn’t see yourself wearing the MMA [clothing] brands currently in the marketplace”. Can you explain exactly why that is?
A majority of the brands in the marketplace are either generic name brands with a logo or they depict aggression and violence. For example, you’ll see shirts with skulls and crossbones, fake blood droplets, etc. I think there’s a level of machismo that exists in the martial arts; therefore, the idea of being a “tough guy” goes hand in hand with wearing “tough guy” brands. In reality, some of the professional fighters I know are the most humble, down to earth people you will meet. They love to joke around, but when it comes to their craft, they train extremely hard. That craft happens to be in an area where violence occurs. The fun side of martial arts is rarely expressed in the marketplace. I decided that I will develop the brand that will fill that void.
Cyrus, you have competed in combat sports competitions previously. For those who have never competed in MMA or martial arts, what is the training like for a competition both mentally and physically?
I think martial arts are a microcosm of our lives. You get input based returns – it’s cliché, but the harder and smarter you work, you’ll generally receive better results. You need a relentless drive that accepts the inevitable tough periods, some of them unforeseen. The physical training compliments the mindset you develop. If you’re unfocused and your mindset isn’t stable, you will most probably have a tough time dealing with obstacles that are placed in front you – whether that obstacle is a deadline at work or an opponent across a ring or cage that wants to defeat you in every possible way. At the end of the day, you have to train both physically and mentally. Just as in life, your weaknesses will get exposed at some point; therefore, you need to keep improving and growing. This kind of consistent mindset allows for a greater potential of a successful outcome, whether it’s at a martial arts event or in your everyday life.
Now with a clothing line on the market, are there any fighters you plan to sponsor at the various levels of MMA or other combat sports?
We don’t sponsor any fighters in the UFC as they presently have a contract with Reebok. I do however work with one of the top MMA gyms in the world based out of Florida, called Hard Knocks 365. It’s headed by the top striking coach in MMA, Henri Hooft. The gym is home to other top wrestling, grappling and MMA coaches and professional fighters. They’re building a fantastic gym and I’m fortunate that Giraffe Choke is linked to such a great crew. I am looking to start a profit sharing program with some of the fighters that should help augment their earnings as they chase their dreams to become world champions. The fighter’s pay isn’t commensurate to how hard they work.
Giraffe Choke donates a portion of its net proceeds to charity. Can you explain why donating to charities is so important to you and what kind of legacy you hope Giraffe Choke will have?
My father passed away from a form of Leukemia and my mother has developed Alzheimer’s. These two diseases dramatically changed the way I think about life. My parents were inseparable and helped raise me to become who I am. They were very hard working and grew up in noble and respected families. The Iranian revolution in 1979 sent their lives upside down. They raised me in the Washington DC area and, through example, they showed me the meaning of hard work, humility and love. I am indebted to them. I took care of them with every ounce of energy I could. What these horrible diseases did to the two most influential people in my life was such an eye opener that I decided that my business will donate to these charities, so that maybe someday in the future, families won’t fragment and suffer the way mine has.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I graduated college with a Fine Arts degree, although I pursued a career in finance. I ran my own business in college that I had to eventually close down due to the recession at the time. Oddly enough, it was Art History classes that forced me to learn pattern recognition, which in turn helped me in financial market trading. I also think my mind thinks far more creatively than the typical business mind. I feel like I’ve been able to solve problems in more non-traditional ways than your typical business student. They seem to all think and act the same and have similar solutions to problems. Many are clones of one another and no one wants to step out of line. I don’t want to say that Fine Arts graduates are great for businesses – it just happened to work out for me.
What makes you smile?
I smile when I see people that I love in my life are happy and smiling. Cute, chubby babies also make me smile.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
I’ve been a sports junky my entire life; therefore, many figures I have a great appreciation for happen to be athletes. My idol growing up was Bruce Lee, but I also was a big fan of the Dutch soccer player, Johan Cruyff. Royce Gracie also stands out for me. Although it was his family that brought the world closer to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it was Royce who had to go into UFC 1 and perform. I’m not a fan of politics; therefore, most politicians don’t make the list. In essence, I admire anyone who has overcome great odds in order to enhance others’ lives within a greater society.
What are you never without?
I’m never without my cell phone. I don’t like it, but it’s a necessary evil. I’m conscious of the changes I see in people walking around with their cell phones and I think it’s ridiculous. People have become zombies without realizing it. I make a concerted effort to stay off the phone as much as I can.
Can you share three of your favorite quotes with us?
“The one who doesn’t fall, doesn’t stand up.” – Fedor Emelianenko
“Only a fool tests the depths of the water with both feet.” – Proverb
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin Roosevelt
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
If I could change one thing, I’d eliminate profiteering. I’m 100% a capitalist by nature, but profiteering is different. In my opinion, capitalism is highly important in building out a better future and helps to improve societies upon the greater good principle. Profiteering does just the opposite. Many mistake these two as being the same. They’re not. I cannot think of any part of the world that operates on pure capitalism and not on the profiteering principle.
Cyrus, what advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?
Businesses are headaches and obstacles. When this is accepted, then the headaches and obstacles disappear. Persevere through enough difficulties until the business gets to where you want it to be.
For more information on Cyrus Pakravan and to buy Giraffe Choke apparel and accessories, please visit www.GiraffeChoke.com. Be sure to also check them out on Facebook and Instagram @GiraffeChoke.