It sounds more like dormitory than ESPN: Two people hit each other with pillows while the audience yells at them.
But the pillow fight, its proponents claim, is on the verge of a breakthrough with a “professional” league, specially designed pillows with handles, and even strict rules. Welcome to the PFC – the Pillow Fight Championship.
And it’s now garnering so much attention that it’s drawn the ire of the far larger Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The UFC, chaired by Dana White, forced the PFC to change the colors of their logo so the two could not be confused.
PFC CEO Steve Williams told The Post: “It’s ridiculous. Out of the 100 million comments, no one said anything about confusion.”
The UFC official objected to PFC’s trademark application on the grounds that the similar branding would create “confusion”.
The case is still pending with the Patent and Trademark Office, which governs trademark use, but Williams said he bowed to White’s UFC to avoid a conflict that would stand in the way of the Florida-based sport’s growth.
But Williams said he would have preferred to have settled matters in the ring – but with cushions.
“Yes, I would definitely like to bring Dana in the ring. He’s a decade younger and has spent his entire life with MMA fighters, but I’m 100% sure I’d spank his ass in the first round,” he said. UFC did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.
A fight with White isn’t Williams’ only ambitious attempt to attract high-profile players to his sport.
He has also reached out to two would-be fighters who should face off in their own cage fight: Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.
The tech titans had originally agreed to a cage fight, but Zuckerberg wanted to compete as an exhibition fight under White’s accepted rules but not officially be part of the UFC, while Musk suggested holding a fight of his own, claiming he had the Colosseum in Rome booked for it.
Zuckerberg, who has studied mixed martial arts (MMA), said Musk wasn’t serious and appeared to have given up the prospect — but Williams is undeterred.
“They could have easily had a pillow fight and that would have made perfect sense, nobody would have gotten hurt,” he said said 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 game, but Williams says it’s growing fast nonetheless.
On January 29, 2022, the first professional PFC event was broadcast live from Miami, Florida. This year made it to ESPN.
The August bout featured pillow fights between the Viii Sports YMCA Invitational and the FootGolf World Cup on ESPN2’s The Ocho, which showcases alternative and emerging sports.
The ESPN special featured a grudge fight between the PFC’s two biggest stars, Hauley Tillman, a Miami native whom Williams likens to both Conor McGregor and Muhammad Ali because “he’s a great trash-talker and very funny,” and Parker Appel, who is also an MMA competitor.
Appel ended Tillman’s winning streak that had lasted since the sport began in 2021.
As for celebrity pillowfight fans, Williams says comedians like Kevin Hart and rapper Pitbull can’t get enough of the semi-pro sport.
“We signed a deal with Kevin’s Hartbeat Productions in 2021 to develop a Celebrity Pillow Fight Championship show,” Williams commented. And Pitbull “mostly loves the PFC because it’s great for kids physically and mentally.”
His stakes barely reach the scale of the UFC: To date, about 300 people have attended fights across the US, although as many as 2,000 have signed up for the fight.
Each PFC fight consists of three 90-second rounds. The rules of conduct for sport listed on the PFC website are fairly simple. For example, fighters are encouraged to swing their pillows with full force, avoid hitting the head, and perform “special moves as defined.”
Fighters are specifically discouraged from striking and pushing or attacking opponents with anything other than their pillows, which are a specially made combat version – but if the pillow breaks, that’s a win: players earn three points.
So far, prices top out at $5,000, which pales in comparison to the seven-figure amounts regularly offered to UFC fighters.
However, Williams says that after fighting White’s UFC, he would now prefer peaceful coexistence to continuing to fly feathers.
“PFC is a great introductory sport for kids and also a great entry and exit point for past, present and future UFC champions so we can live together perfectly,” he said.