Joey Chestnut and Dogs - © 2017 Nathan's Famous

Top Hot Dog-Eating Champ Barred From Title Match!

History will once again be made this July 4, when Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Championship takes place – without Joey Chestnut! The top dog in the Nathan’s Famous eating contest has been banned!

Chestnut - © 2021 Nathan's - 2021 - Brittainy Newman via APJoey Chestnut in happier times: Accepting the Championship
belt after winning the Nathan’s Famous Contest in 2021.

It’s got nothing to do with the contest itself. It’s all about politics. Or is it economics? You decide. Major League Eating (MLE), the global organization that regulates pro eating contests, says Joey can’t compete under the Nathan’s tent because he’s signed a sponsorship deal with plant-based hot dog competitor Impossible foods.


It’s considered a major impropriety. On a par with a baseball player betting on a game? Or a football player bulking up with steroids? Not by a long shot. More like the baseball player buying a string of Burger King franchises when the official fast Food sponsor of the MLB is Dairy Queen.

Let’s be clear: It’s the ‘league’ coming down on Joey, not Nathan’s.

Tried to accommodate

“MLE and Nathan’s went to great lengths in recent months to accommodate Joey and his management team, agreeing to the appearance fee and allowing Joey to compete in a rival unbranded hot dog eating contest on Labor Day,” MLE stated. “For nearly two decades we have worked under the same basic hot dog exclusivity provisions.”

“However, it seems that Joey and his managers have prioritized a new partnership with a different hot dog brand over our long-time relationship.”

The ‘unbranded hot dog eating contest’ will be broadcast on Netflix as a rare Live Netflix Event.

Understated response

Joey’s response the the announcement of his ban was gentlemanly and understated:

“Sadly, this is the decision Nathan’s and Major League Eating are making and it will deprive the great fans of the holiday’s usual joy and entertainment,” Chestnut wrote on his Instagram account. “To my fans, I love you and appreciate you. Rest assured that you’ll see me eat again soon. Stay tuned and STAY HUNGRY!”

Not just Joey…

Another pro eating star has also left the MLE ranks in recent years. Takeru Kobayashi, dubbed by some ‘The Godfather of Competitive Eating’, withdrew of his own volition. More recently, he revealed in a new documentary that he’s retiring after 20 years in the eating game, at age 46.

But Takeru will come to the table one last(?) time for the head-to-head with Joey on Netflix, this Labour Day weekend (September 2).

My take

I wonder which broadcast will have the higher ratings? The Nathan’s contest, being shown live on ESPN? Or the ‘clash of giants’ match on Netflix?

One way or another, I think the audience figures for both will benefit from the surrounding controversy…

~ Maggie J.