Pillow Fighting Is A Way More Serious Sport Than You Realized

There was a time when pillow fights were limited to adolescent sleepovers and moments when you wanted to torment a younger sibling. That time is gone, in the sense that pillow fighting has now migrated out of bedrooms and into the middle of the ring. Much the same way that the beanbag tossing game of cornhole transcended college football tailgates to become a go-to favorite when ESPN needs to fill holes in its programming lineup, pillow fighting hopes to be the next big thing in the sports world.

And it could happen. The idea of playing video games as a sport was once scoffed at, but now esports are a serious player in the sports landscape with industry-wide revenue of over $1 billion (via Newzoo). Believe it or not, there are enough people serious enough about pillow fighting being the next sport to crack the big time, and they're working to make it a reality. In 2021, the Pillow Fighting Championship, or PFC, held its first pay-per-view event (via CNN). That's right: There aren't just enough people who enjoy wailing on each other with pillows; there are other people ready to shell out money to watch people who enjoy wailing on each other with pillows.

There are different forms of organized pillow fighting

There isn't one set of rules when it comes to organized pillow fighting. The World Pillow Fighting Championship has been around for more than 50 years and still takes place to this day in — of all places — northern California wine country; specifically, the town of Kenwood in Sonoma County. It was an idea put together by a pair of community organizations that thought it would be a fun charity fundraiser. Their version of pillow fighting involves placing a long metal pole across a mud-filled creek. Two pillow pugilists balance on the pole while trying to knock their opponent off the pole and into the muddy drink. Today, the event draws people from around the world.

In 2013, across the Pacific Ocean, high school students in Ito, Japan started a new version of pillow fighting. The All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championship is a team sport, where two teams of five belt each other with pillows. However, according to How Stuff Works, there's more to it. Players in this version of the game start by pretending to be asleep, then upon hearing a whistle they hop to their feet and dash to grab a pillow in the center of the playing era. This starting procedure is somewhat similar to that seen in dodgeball. Also, like dodgeball, in this version of the game, players throw the specially-made pillows at each other instead of swinging them.

Pillow fighting: the combat sport

There's a fair argument to be made that pillow fighting is a combat sport like boxing or mixed martial arts. Sure, it's a bit safer, but that's something the organizers of the Pillow Fighting Championship were hoping to capitalize on with their events. According to CNN, the PFC uses specialized pillows as well, and while the fights can have the intensity of a prize fight, there's no chance of competitors getting hurt.

"The fighters don't like to get hurt, and there's a lot of people who don't want to see the blood. They want to see good competition, they just don't want to see the violence," PFC's CEO Steve Williams told Reuters. "You can call it an alternative sport, but we think it's going to have mainstream appeal. Think about how they mixed country music with rap music and brought these diverse audiences together. That's what we're doing, and we hope it brings in a different kind of viewer."

The first pay-per-view event in 2021 was held in Miami and featured a fight card comprised of 16 men and 8 women squaring off in three-round matches. According to Marca, the winners took home $5,000. The champion on the women's side was Istela Nunes of Brazil, while Hauley Tillman fought his way to the men's championship.