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Who Is The World’s Best Eater: Joey Chestnut Or Takeru Kobayashi?

Magic Johnson or Larry Bird? Is LeBron James the next Michael Jordan, or is Kobe Bryant the “air” to the throne? There’s nothing like a good sports debate. It’s in our nature to analyze greatness, and that emotional discussion can, at times, get heated.

Over the years, it has become a “thing,” in even the most mainstream of circles, to debate who is the greatest living competitive eater. Is it Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobayashi?

Most of the debate stems from their epic battles at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. It started back in 2007 when Chestnut won his first title, beating the six-time champ and breaking the world record, eating 66 hot dogs to Kobayashi’s 63. The following year, the two tied, eating 59 hot dogs each. The competition went into “overtime,” where Chestnut defeated Kobayashi by being the first to eat five hot dogs. Kobayashi fell one bite short.

What followed was one of the more dramatic moments in eating history. After a somewhat long contract dispute between Kobayashi and the Major League Eating organization, Kobi was arrested at the 2010 Nathan’s event when he tried to make his way onto the competition stage. Since he wasn’t a sanctioned eater, he was considered a trespasser.

Kobayashi then took a more independent path, eventually setting up his own 4th of July hot dog eating competition, known as the Crif Dog Classic. This event, in its first year, was built to rival the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. This only builds the battle and continues to force the question: Who is the greatest living eater?

Let’s go to the tale of the tape.

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Joey Chestnut
Takeru Kobayashi
Photo Credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
220 lbs.
191 lbs.
Vallejo, California
Nagano, Japan
Hot Dog Record
68 (two times)
69 (unofficial), 64.5 (official)
Nathan's Hot Dog Championship Wins
6 (2007, '08, '09, '10, '11, '12)
6 (2001, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06)
MLE World Records Held
Behind The Records
Aside from his hot dog-eating record, Chestnut holds records for eating pork ribs (9.8 pounds in 12 minutes), steak (4.5 pounds in 9 minutes), gyros (21.5 in 10 minutes), jalapeno poppers (118 in 10 minutes) and, well, asparagus (9.3 pounds in 10 minutes).
Kobayashi only has four MLE world records to Chestnut's 23. So you would think there shouldn't even be a discussion. But, considering the MLE has not recognized Kobayashi's eating feats for many years now, he can't wrack up records or compete against Chestnut in sanctioned events. So don't let the "official" records fool you.
He's most famous for his hot dog record, which seems to be the basis of how eating fans rate greatness. Some say that Chestnut is the most complete eater, because he has a "wider range" of standing records. Yet he also isn't known to eat more "exotic" delicacies. For example, some consider Kobayashi's cow brains record to be more impressive then, say, a steak-eating record. But that really depends on your personal taste, if you will.
In an amazing feat, Kobayashi ate 110 hot dogs (no buns) in 10 minutes at the 2012 Syracuse State Fair, a record not recognized my the MLE. He also ate 337 chicken wings at Wing Bowl XX, which topped Chestnut's best performance of 241 wings at Wing Bowl XVI. To top it off, Kobayashi said he could have eaten 100 more wings. You don't see that in the MLE record books either.

We'll Just Call it a Tie

Photo Credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images Photo Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

It's clear, from talking to fans of professional eating, that you're either for Chestnut or Kobayashi, not both. And it's also clear that we may never know who the better eater is. There doesn't seem to be any possible resolution on the horizon between Kobayashi and Major League Eating, meaning we may never see Chestnut and Kobayashi go head-to-head again. This kills the dream of a World Series of Eating competition to crown an eventual champion, which is a shame.

For now, the debate will live on. So we ask you, who's your guy? Chestnut or Kobayashi?


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