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Joey Chestnut unable to compete in Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest after signing with plant-based food company

Joey Chestnut unable to compete in Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest after signing with plant-based food company

The world’s greatest eater won’t be able to compete in the world’s greatest eating event.

Joey Chestnut, a 16-time champion of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, is unable to participate in the July 4 event because he signed a deal with another hot dog brand, according to Major League Eating.

“We are devastated to learn that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest,” it said in a statement. “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.

Competitive eater Joey Chestnut holds a plate of hotdogs representing his world record for eating 76 hotdogs and buns in ten minutes during a weigh-in ceremony before the Nathan's Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest on July 3, 2023, in New York.  (John Minchillo / AP file)
Competitive eater Joey Chestnut holds a plate of hotdogs representing his world record for eating 76 hotdogs and buns in ten minutes during a weigh-in ceremony before the Nathan's Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest on July 3, 2023, in New York. (John Minchillo / AP file)

“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.”

Rules of the event stipulate no participant can be endorsed by a competing hot dog brand.

Chestnut said Tuesday afternoon in a statement on social media: "I was gutted to learn from the media that after 19 years I'm banned from the Nathan’s July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest. I love competing in that event, I love celebrating America with my fans all over this great country on the 4th and I have been training to defend my title.

Defending champion Joey Chestnut competes in the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest on July 4, 2023, at Coney Island in Brooklyn. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Getty Images file)
Defending champion Joey Chestnut competes in the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest on July 4, 2023, at Coney Island in Brooklyn. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Getty Images file)

"To set the record straight, I do not have a contract with MLE or Nathan's and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it relates to other partners I can work with. This is apparently the basis on which I’m being banned, and it doesn’t impact the July 4th event.

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

Chestnut, 40, is the event's eight-time defending champion. Last year, he won by consuming 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. His record is 76, in 2021.

Second place contestant Takeru Kobayashi of Japan and winner Joey Chestnut at Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest on July 4, 2007.  (Curtis Means / NBC )
Second place contestant Takeru Kobayashi of Japan and winner Joey Chestnut at Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest on July 4, 2007. (Curtis Means / NBC )

Chestnut was put on the map in 2007 when he upset longtime titleholder Takeru Kobayashi of Japan. Kobayashi had won six titles in a row.

According to Major League Eating, Chestnut holds records in 55 categories, including eggs, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken wings, apple pies, pierogis and gyros.

“Joey Chestnut is an American hero,” it said. “We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, which he has dominated for years. We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand."

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com