Hot dog eating contest chokes on champ's rival contract

By Cedar Attanasio
Updated June 12 2024 - 10:50am, first published 10:47am
Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut was ruled out of a hot dog eating contest over his contract with a rival brand. (AP PHOTO)
Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut was ruled out of a hot dog eating contest over his contract with a rival brand. (AP PHOTO)

The reigning champion of the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest will not compete in the 2024 event after signing a deal with a rival brand, organisers say.

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, 40, has long been the face - not to mention the mouth - of the competition. He has vied for the dog-downing contest's coveted Mustard Belt since 2005 and has won it almost every year since 2007, with the exception of a rare loss in 2015.

In 2021, the Indiana resident ingested 76 franks and buns in 10 minutes, a record that still stands.

But Major League Eating event organiser George Shea says Chestnut is moving away from the contest due to a contract dispute.

"We love him. The fans love him," Shea said, adding: "He made the choice."

Chestnut disputed who made the choice, saying on the social platform X, "I do not have a contract with MLE or Nathans and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it relates to other partners I can work with."

In a thread posted on Tuesday night after the news broke, Chestnut said he had been training to defend his title at the Independence Day event and only learned through media reports that he would not be allowed to compete.

"I was gutted to learn from the media that after 19 years Im banned," Chestnut said on X.

"To my fans, I love you and appreciate you. Rest assured that you'll see me eat again soon!! STAY HUNGRY!"

The yearly bun fight, which dates back to 1972, sees large crowds of fans in foam hot-dog hats gather in front of the original Nathan's Famous restaurant in Coney Island, Brooklyn, to cheer on the the competitors as they chow down.

Those vying for second place in the past might have renewed hope to chomp their way to victory this year, including international competitors on the eating circuit.

Last year's second-place winner was Geoffrey Esper from Oxford, Massachusetts, who downed 49 dogs to Chestnut's 62. Third place went to Australia's James Webb with 47.

This isn't the first time the contest has parted ways with one of its biggest stars.

In 2010, Japanese eating champion Takeru Kobayashi, Chestnut's then-rival, also stopped competing in the annual bun fight due to a contract dispute with Major League Eating.

Kobayashi crashed the contest in a T-shirt reading "Free Kobi" and was arrested. He was sentenced to six months' probation. Kobayashi announced his retirement from the sport in May.

Australian Associated Press