Forget about boxing and MMA, Steve Williams claims Pillow Fight is most ‘gruelling sport in the world’

Pillow Fighting Championship’s most recent live event on ESPN gets more than one million viewers Boss says the cardio from swinging a pillow is so intense, they only use ‘highly trained MMA, boxers and Muay Thai fighters for our pro events’

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Two competitors battle it out during the PFC’s televised event on ESPN. Photo: PFC

The world of combat sports gets increasingly brutal as the years go by, from the bloody bouts in MMA, to the slap battles that have turned the head of UFC boss Dana White, broken bones and rattled brains are the order of the day.

But what if you want a workout in the ring without the threat of serious injury? How about a spot of pillow fighting?

No longer the preserve of young children, or advertisers and entertainers for purposes of titillation, the Pillow Fighting Championship (PFC) is here and if CEO Steve Williams has his way, it will conquer the world.

Last month, Williams offered Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, two billionaires reportedly keen on trading blows, the chance to settle their differences like real men: with pillows.

Although the tech titans are unlikely to ever accept the request, an increasing number of people are embracing the new, rather unique combat sport. Moreover, it seems, people are actually interested in watching.

Williams said the most recent live event, which aired on ESPN, had more than one million viewers, and with competitions in both Brazil and Ghana, he claimed the sport was going global.

In Ghana, a country that has embraced combat sports, Williams said there were hundreds of competitors fighting at various schools, while “young adults,” could be found “fighting at traditional festivals”.

With big plans to introduce his organisation into the Middle East and Asia, Williams claims the PFC is a complement, rather than a rival, to MMA.

“Our goal is to simultaneously grow the sport and PFC brand to every country,” Williams said. “We have been approached by potential licensees in Vietnam and Singapore and hope that other viable partners will reach out to us from China and other countries in Asia.”

Like any combat sport, PFC has its own rules and points system for the three 90-second rounds. Head strikes are out, you cannot charge or push your opponent and only hits with the pillow count.

There is prize money too, with winners earning anything from US$500 to US$5,000, although Williams says that will increase as the sport grows.

It is hard though to view PFC as anything more than a gimmick or to seriously consider Williams’ suggestions that competitors are professionals.

“PFC’s pillow fight sport is absolutely not a joke,” Williams said. “The sport is the most gruelling sport in the world from a cardio standpoint.”

Why, then, are MMA, Muay Thai and boxing rounds all five minutes in length, but PFC less than two?

Williams said it was because “fighters cannot handle longer rounds”, adding that during a PFC bout, “an untrained fighter’s breath rate can rise so high that it is virtually impossible for them to continue”.

He also said the continuous swinging of the pillow exhausted competitors more quickly, which was why “we only use highly trained MMA, boxers and Muay Thai fighters for our pro events”.

“None of those fighters are saying PFC is a joke,” he added.

PFC only used highly trained MMA, boxers and Muay Thai fighters for pro events, as the cardio is so intense. Photo: PFC

Parker Appel, the reigning men’s US Pillow Fight Champion, said he initially thought it was a bit of a joke, but the “cardio was crazy” adding it helped him prepare for his MMA debut this month.

Not everyone is a fan, especially UFC boss White, who took exception to the striking similarities between the PFC’s logo and that of his own organisation.

Williams said he was “close to signing the ridiculous agreement with UFC to not use a ‘red’ PFC”, and had already changed to an orange look.

Which begs the question: does the PFC actually have a future, or is the idea of two people swinging bags full of feathers too ridiculous to catch on?

“We have 300 fighters in the US, but a roster of roughly 2,000 globally,” Williams said, adding he expected that to grow as his organisation expanded.

Whether or not competitive pillow fighting is sustainable, and whether or not Williams’ venture actually stands a chance of thriving remains to be seen.

But pillow fighting is having a moment, and if Williams has his way, we’ll all be picking up pillows and working up a sweat.