Who says the Super Bowl only happens once a year? Today, Major League Eating's most talented athletes gather in Coney Island, New York for the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest, a July Fourth spectacular that sees competitors scarf down dozens of hot dogs in just 10 minutes. Over the past decade, one man and his iron stomach have ruled the field: Joey Chestnut, known as the Glizzy Gladiator, who has repeatedly bested his own record for most hot dogs and buns — or HDB, as they're known in the sport — eaten in the allotted time.
In 2021, Chestnut took professional eating to new heights when he consumed 76 hot dogs to win his 15th title in 16 years. (His lone loss came at the hands of Matt Stonie in 2015.) While he eked out a win last year, his 63-dog performance was widely considered a disappointment after years over the 70-HDB mark. Of course, Chestnut's underwhelming showing was partially a result of his altercation with a protester in the opening minutes of the competition: When an anti-Smithfield Foods activist rushed the stage, the Glizzy Gladiator put him in a chokehold and dragged him away. Chestnut continued to down his 18th HDB as he grabbed the protestor, but he later said the incident slowed him down by three hot dogs.
Assuming there aren't any protesters in Darth Vader helmets lurking nearby, Chestnut is well-positioned to beat his record at the 2023 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, though he'll have to top MLE's second-ranked eater Geoffrey Esper to win another mustard yellow belt. Defending women's champion Miki Sudo, who's currently #3 overall in the league, is also projected to dominate her opponents, but she faces an uphill battle to hit the 48.5 HDB record she set in 2020.
Could this be the year Joey Chestnut passes the 80-HDB mark, or will one of the sport's young guns knock him off the throne? Will Miki Sudo win her ninth Nathan's Hot Dog title? And most importantly, what's the best way to watch all this action go down? Here's everything you need to know about the marquee event of the 2023 Major League Eating season.
The 2023 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest takes place on Tuesday, July 4. The men's and women's competitions will be held live at the chain's original location on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island, where the event has taken place since 1972.
UPDATED JULY 4, 1:55 PM ET: After a lengthy weather delay, the 2023 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest will resume at 2:00 PM ET on ESPN2. Fans interested in learning more about each athlete and their professional eating careers should tune in early for introductions and pre-event analysis from SportsCenter anchor John Anderson, MLE president Richard Shea, and on-site reporter Renee James.
ESPN is planning wall-to-wall coverage of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, which will be broadcast live and re-aired all day. In addition to the live feeds, the Disney-owned company will have isolation cameras on Chestnut and Sudo, both available on ESPN3, during their respective competitions.
Encore presentations of the annual sodium-fest will air throughout the afternoon and evening, with the schedule as follows:
Joey Chestnut currently holds the #1 ranking among professional eaters, but if there's anyone capable of challenging him in 2023, it's Geoffrey Esper. MLE's second-ranked competitor finished second in last year's competition with 47.5 HDB, but he arrives in Coney Island with a string of recent successes under his belt. Earlier this year, Esper set the bar for the most bagels with cream cheese eaten in eight minutes (17.75, to be exact) and secured his third straight strawberry shortcake eating record by consuming 21 pounds in eight minutes, among other historic feats.
Up-and-comer Nick Wehry (#4 in the MLE rankings) also has a chance to prove himself at this year's event. Wehry, who's married to Sudo, came in fourth place in 2022 with 40 HDB, but he's since proven he can go toe-to-toe with Chestnut and come out on top. In February, he defeated Chestnut in the league's pistachio-eating competition, putting down 188 nuts in eight minutes.
This year's contest also sees the return of 2015 champion Matt Stonie, who holds various meat-related records, including bacon (182 strips in five minutes), pork roll sandwiches (15 8-ounce sandwiches in 10 minutes), and pork ribs (71 in five minutes). MLE's dairy aficionado Darron Breeden, the reigning cheese curd record holder (5 pounds, 2 ounces in six minutes), and Gideon Oji, who famously ate 2 pounds of sliced bologna in 52 seconds, will also be competing.
On the women's side, Sudo will be facing Michelle Lesco (#9 overall), who won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2021. (Sudo was pregnant and sat out that year.) The eight-time champ will also do battle with Sarah Rodriguez, Larell Marie Mele, and Katie Perryman, all of whom have participated in the July Fourth event in the past.
It wouldn't be a Nathan's Famous competition without master of ceremonies George Shea, who co-founded Major League Eating with his brother Richard in 1997. Shea has been involved in the big event since the 1990s, when he began marketing the competition, and the sport itself, to a global audience, but in recent years, he's drawn attention for his ridiculous, verbose introductions. The emcee is already hard at work promoting this year's contest, which he claims is "the crucible through which greatness is forged." He adds, "On Independence Day 2023, we will once again celebrate the birth of this nation and the champion of the Fourth of July."
If the 2023 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest has inspired you to go deeper into the world of Major League Eating, ESPN has just the thing. In 2019, 30 for 30 produced a documentary about the battle between Joey Chestnut and previous champion Takeru Kobayashi, a six-time mustard belt winner who revolutionized professional eating. The Good, The Bad, The Hungry offers interesting context about the annual competition and Kobayashi's impact on the sport, as well as his eventual falling out with Shea and the league. The film is currently available to stream on Disney+, and at only 75 minutes without commercials, it makes for a quick and easy summertime bite.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.