It’s been a huge year for sport in Toronto. This past summer the city hosted the seventeenth Pan American Games in which Canadian athletes won a record 217 medals; the entire city got behind the unprecedented success of the Blue Jays, who made it all the way to the ALCS for the first time in 22 years; and Toronto FC have clinched a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history. With the right infrastructure and fan support already in place, is the city finally ready to welcome a new, unconventional sport into its successful roster?

Brandy Dawley, president of the Pillow Fight League (PFL), thinks so.

Started in 2006, the PFL is trying to distance itself from the girls-only slumber party image that perpetuates conversations amongst the ignorant. The PFL has hosted 65 events across North America over the last five years. Pillow fighting prides itself on being a full contact, mixed martial arts, and boxing hybrid. The competitors, dubbed fighters, traditionally compete on floor mats and are equipped with one weapon: a pillow. Drawing inspiration from roller derby, the sport is all about contact — fighters use their pillows to incapacitate their opponents — and all contact must be made using the pillow.   

Pillow fighting prides itself on being a full contact, mixed martial arts, and boxing hybrid.  

Dawley, along with a few other fans of the sport, purchased the rights to the league after the original PFL went defunct in 2011, and they are looking to put pillow fighting on the map.

A proud feminist, Dawley recently talked to The Varsity about her plans for the league, the importance of female only sports, and the badass fighters who make up the PFL.

The Varsity: What is the PFL and why did you make the decision to become the president of the league?

Brandy Dawley: Back when the original pillow fight league was still running I came to a couple of shows and I had the same reaction I’m expecting most people are going to have about the sport which is, you know, kind of: ‘ok sure girls pillow fighting this is going to be hilarious.’ I was picturing the same thing I think everyone pictures when they think of pillow fighting: some lingerie-clad bikini models hitting each other with pillows, [but] I went and it was nothing like that at all. It was the brutal exciting sport with these athletes. Just beating the crap out of each other with pillows and it was just so amazing that I became hooked… I was really personally disappointed when the league folded, and then I got in contact with a few other people who were fans of the league… and we decided we needed to bring this thing back, and we bought it. And here I am.

TV: Do you think the PFL will be received as more of an activity or entertainment? Is Toronto ready to embrace pillow fighting as a sport?

BD: Well here’s the thing, I think now is the perfect time because women are starting to really make a name for themselves in sports. The women’s world cup finals was, I think, the top watched soccer game in US history. Ronda Rousey is one of the most notable combat athletes out there right now, women are finding their way onto coaching staff in the NFL and NBA; its not a boys club anymore. I think the general idea of women as athletes is celebrated more now than it was… even a year ago… I think now is the time that we’ll be taken seriously as a sport… We’re kind of counting on that ‘WTF’ factor to bring people to the first game. We’re hoping that people are as blown away by our athletes as we were when we first came to the shows and decide that they actually like the sport… the first show is going to be the toughest — getting people to take [the PFL] seriously. We’re hoping that…the press [are] there [and] get the chance to see what we’re about. Then people [can] decide to give us a chance… I’m very proudly a feminist and we want to make sure that this is first and for most a women forward event, and a women forward sport.

TV: What is the selection process like for the PFL and how many fighters are you looking to take onboard? When can we expect the first match to take place?

BD: Right now we’re focusing on our crowd funding campaign and getting the seed capital for our first show because we kind of expended most of our resources in buying the league. We could have started our own league — many people have tried — but we wanted the first and the best… Now its time to plan the first event and we’re hoping that the crowd funding campaign will give us a little boost… We have a tentative date and a tentative location… but it all depends on how the crowd funding campaign goes… If you want to become a fighter the website is you sign up — there’s a lengthy questionnaire. We’re going to be having open tryouts, probably in November, and from there we will have coaches and they will be working with our athletes… Right now we’re looking for our first six fighters but we’re going to have a much larger roster as time goes on.

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