Six-time Nathan's Hot-Dog-Eating Contest champ Takeru Kobayashi will not be swallowing moist hot dogs this July 4 on the world famous Nathan’s Hot Dog podium. For the fourth year in a row, Kobayashi, nicknamed "The Tsunami," will be a no-show.
The first year Kobayashi sat out of the eating contest was in part because he refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating (MLE), reasoning that he wanted to be free to compete in contests sanctioned by other groups. TheAtlantic.com reports, "The terms of the dispute are simple. Competitive eating does not pay particularly well — only the absolute top-tier eaters bring in enough money from competition that they do not need supplemental income. Major League Eating wants a cut of any endorsement or sponsorship one of its competitors signs. For Kobayashi, this was too much to ask."
Declining MLE’s offer prohibited Kobayashi to participate in the contest in 2010. Joey Chestnut (the new reigning champion) went onto win the event. This year, Kobayashi will be at a different eating contest, staged at the Eventi Hotel in Manhattan, 13 miles from the ESPN cameras and crowds at Coney Island, BuzzFeed.com reports. The in-depth article about Kobayashi’s journey explains that although the names of the seven opponents have not been released, Kobayashi’s manager and girlfriend, Maggie James, insists they’re legitimate competitors, "not firefighters goofing off for charity." "They’re huge eaters, they’re badass, they’re no less than the ones onstage in Coney Island," says James. The only difference, BuzzFeed explains, is that the competitors don’t want to sign a limiting contract.
Just in time for the celebration of America’s independence, it seems Kobayashi finds himself empowered by the American attitude of freedom and rebellion.