It sounds more sleep-away camp than ESPN: two people hitting each other with pillows while an audience roars them on.
But pillow fighting is, its backers claims, about to hit the big time with a “professional” league, specially-designed pillows with handles, and even strict rules. Welcome to the PFC — the Pillow Fight Championship.
And so much attention is it attracting now that it has raised the ire of the far larger Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The UFC, presided over by Dana White, forced the PFC to change the colors it uses in its logo so the two could not be confused.
PFC’s CEO, Steve Williams, told The Post: “It’s ridiculous. Out of the 100 million comments nobody ever said anything about being confused.”
The UFC formally objected to the PFC’s trademark application on the grounds that the similar branding would cause “confusion.”
The case is still pending at the Patent and Trademark Office which regulates the use of trademarks, but Williams said he had bowed to White’s UFC to avoid a clash getting in the way of growth for the Florida-based sport.
But Williams said he would have preferred to sort the matter out in the ring — but with pillows.
“Yes I’d definitely like to get Dana in the ring. He’s a decade younger and spent his entire life around MMA fighters but I’m 100% sure that I’d stomp his skinny a** in the first round,” he said. UFC did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.
A fight with White is not Williams’ only ambitious attempt to get high-profile people to take up his sport.
He has also reached out to two would-be fighters who were supposed to be facing off in a cage match of their own: Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.
The tech titans had initially agreed to a cage match, but Zuckerberg wanted to face off as an exhibition match under White’s recognized rules, but not formally part of UFC, while Musk suggested holding their own bout, and claimed he had booked the Coliseum in Rome for it.
Zuckerberg, who has taken up Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has said Musk is not being serious and appears to have given up on the prospect — but Williams is undeterred.
“They could have easily done a pillow fight and that would have absolutely made sense, no one would have got hurt,” he told The Sun. “And you would probably have just as many people watching it.”
The sport would certainly get a boost from such a high-profile match but Williams says it is growing rapidly regardless.
On 29 January 2022, the first-ever professional PFC event was live streamed from Miami, Florida. This year it made it on to ESPN.
The bout in August showcased pillow fighting on ESPN2’s “The Ocho” — which showcases alternative and new sports — sandwiched between the Viii Sports YMCA Invitational and the FootGolf World Cup.
The ESPN special showed a grudge match between PFC’s two biggest stars, Hauley Tillman, a Miami-native who Williams compares to both Conor McGregor and Muhammad Ali, because “he is a great trash talker and is very funny,” and Parker Appel, who is also an MMA competitor.
Appel ended Tillman’s winning streak, which had lasted since the start of the sport in 2021.
As for celebrity fans of pillow fighting, Williams says that the likes of comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Pitbull can’t get enough of the semi-professional sport.
“We signed a deal with Kevin’s Hartbeat Productions in 2021 to develop a Celebrity Pillow Fight Championship show,” Williams commented. And Pitbull, “loves the PFC largely because it’s great for kids physically and mentally.”
Its operations are hardly on the scale of UFC: so far about 300 people have taken part in bouts in the U.S., although as many as 2,000 have signed up to fight.
Each PFC fight consists of three 90-second rounds. The Dos and Don’ts of the sport, as listed on the PFC’s site, are pretty straightforward. For example, fighters are encouraged to swing their pillows at full force, avoid strikes to the head, and perform “special moves as defined.”
Fighters are actively discouraged from striking with anything other than their pillows, which are a specially-made combat version, and from pushing or charging opponents — but if the pillow breaks, that’s a win: players get three points.
The prizes so far are at most $5,000, which pales in significance compared to the seven figures regularly on offer to UFC fighters.
Williams however says having battled White’s UFC, he would now prefer peaceful co-existence rather than feathers continuing to fly.
“PFC is a great gateway sport for children and is also a great on and off-ramp for past, present and future UFC Champions, so we can coexist perfectly,” he said.