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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Fourth of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest Will Be First Without Chestnut in 20 Years

  • Joey Chestnut is out of the competition over his deal with Impossible Foods.
  • The champion eater is competing in a separate event on a military base in Texas.
Nathan's Hot Dog Eating champion Joey Chestnut's belt before the Lugnuts game against the TinCaps on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, at Jackson Field in Lansing. Chestnut was participating in an olive burger eating contest before the game.
Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest will take place without Joey Chestnut for the first time in two decades. The champion eater has appeared in every Nathan’s contest since 2005, winning 16 of them over the years.

Major League Eating announced in June that Chestnut could not compete in the contest due to his partnership with Impossible Foods. The next day, Chestnut announced he will face his former rival Takeru Kobayashi in a head-to-head Netflix special on Labor Day.

Chestnut won’t be in the Nathan’s contest, but that doesn’t mean he’ll have a hot dog-free Fourth. He accepted an invitation to a competition at an army base in Fort Bliss, Tex., where four soldiers will collectively try to out-eat Chestnut in a five-minute contest. Chestnut announced the event will be streamed live on his YouTube channel and take place hours after the Nathan’s contest.

MLE has long forbidden eaters from partnering with brands that compete with event operators like Nathan’s; a similar exclusivity issue has kept Kobayashi out of the contest for the last 15 years. Chestnut and MLE have feuded in the media about how things went south, with MLE maintaining Chestnut knew taking the Impossible money meant a ban, and Chestnut saying MLE has changed the rules on the fly.

Chestnut said on the June 28 episode of the “Klein/Ally Show” podcast that Impossible doesn’t sell hot dogs (they do), and called MLE “stubborn” and “disingenuous.” He added the brand wasn’t on the league’s list of banned partners. Chestnut was less brash with Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, saying he doesn’t “think the Shea brothers are bad people,” and a return to the contest isn’t off the table, though he finds the chance to operate outside the MLE framework “exciting.” One idea: He said he might finally go to every baseball stadium to rate hot dogs, which he said MLE had forbidden because ballparks use different vendors.

With the longtime champion out of the contest, a new crop of eaters hopes to capture America’s hearts as the next Chestnut. World No. 2 Geoffrey Esper is the favorite to win after his second-place performance last year, eating 13 hot dogs fewer than No. 1 Chestnut. Other promising eaters include James Webb; former Clayton State college basketball player Gideon Oji; Patrick Bertoletti; and Nick Wehry, who is married to No. 1 female eater Miki Sudo. As of Wednesday afternoon, Esper has the best odds to win, and was chosen for 48% of all bets placed on DraftKings, followed by Webb at 15%. The two combine for 82% of all the money placed on the contest.

All of these eaters hold world records. For example, Esper has eaten the most bagels with cream cheese, Webb holds the record for the most chocolate fudge, and Oji downed 10 pounds of baked beans in just one minute and 45 seconds. While Chestnut is out of the running, the Fourth of July tradition will still feature plenty of superhuman inhalers.

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