The former Nathan’s champ talks cheating, his Joey Chestnut rivalry, and wanting to open a ‘funky hot dog bar.’

By Mike Pomranz
Updated July 15, 2019
Kobayashi in 2003.
Chris Hondros / Staff / Getty Images

July is a dead zone for American sports. The NBA and NHL seasons are wrapped. The NFL hasn’t started ramping up. Sure, the MLB is going, but the games aren’t as meaningful as they will be next month. And now that the Women's World Cup is over, maybe that explains why, over the weekend, TMZ Sports caught up with professional eater Takeru Kobayashi to ask about the beef (and buns and ketchup) in the world of competitive hot dog eating. It’s actually a hot topic right now: Not only did Joey Chestnut retain his Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest title on July 4, but in the lead up to the event, ESPN aired a 30 for 30 special specifically on the rivalry between Chestnut and the man he dethroned as the world’s best hot dog eater, Kobayashi.

In two short clips, Kobayashi implies that everything may not be on the up-and-up with Chestnut and the league he’s signed with, Major League Eating. “I’m sure that Chestnut is really working hard and eating as much as he can,” Kobayashi tells TMZ through a translator, “but he does have a contract with MLE, [and co-founder] George Shae, and they do want the numbers to go up, and so they, I’m sure, will do… You know, if people want to believe those numbers people will, and if they don’t, they won’t.” Kobayashi later added that he believes Shae wants Chestnut to win.

Pressed on how Chestnut has continued to break his own hot dog records, Kobayashi — who last won the Nathan’s contest in 2006 — elaborated further. “It is questionable that the size of the hot dogs are even the same from ten years ago. They have altered their size,” he continued. “I don’t know for sure, but the ones in the supermarket are five grams less than they used to be since ten years ago.”

Kobayashi even mentioned a time where he believes he saw Chestnut cheating at a competition. “I've personally definitely witnessed some cheating,” he stated. “One example, we were eating for a pizza P'Zone competition years ago, and he was throwing the hardest part to eat, the crust, into the box the whole time.”

Granted, if there’s one person on Earth who is biased against Joey Chestnut, it’s Kobayashi.

The still-active pro eater also tossed out a possibly more interesting tidbit when TMZ asked him what he’s up to next. “I just want to be able to support really good competitions that are treated as a sport with very serious rules,” he started, “and also I just have my own personal dream of creating a really cool, funky hot dog bar one day.”

That does sound cool. I can already imagine the special: Eat 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes and your meal is free!