He’s the biggest name in the history of competitive eating and a fixture at the annual Nathans Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. However, 16-time champion Joey Chestnut said he was “gutted” to find out he was being “banned” from this year’s event.

Major League Eating, which partners with Nathan’s to organize the contest, didn’t go so far as to explicitly prohibit Chestnut from competing. But the organization did announce Tuesday that it was “devastated” to learn he has chosen to partner with rival hot dog brand Impossible Foods “rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.”

“For nearly two decades we have worked under the same basic hot dog exclusivity provisions,” MLE said in a statement. “However, it seems that Joey and his managers have prioritized a new partnership with a different hot dog brand over our long-time relationship. … We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

In response, Chestnut took to social media to accuse MLE and Nathan’s of changing the rules of past years over which corporate sponsors he is allowed to associate with.

“This is apparently the basis on which I’m being banned, and it doesn’t impact the July 4th event,” Chestnut said. “Sadly, this is the decision Nathan’s and Major League Eating are making, and it will deprive the great fans of the holidays usual joy and entertainment. To my fans, I love you and appreciate you. Rest assured that youll see me eat again soon!! STAY HUNGRY!”

Chestnut has won 17 of the last 18 Fourth of July hot dog eating contests hosted by Nathan’s and MLE. He was again crowned champion last year after eating 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes 13 more than the next closest competitor.

Joey Chestnut Hot Dog Eating Contest

Generally, it’s probably not a good idea to down 62 franks in one sitting, as that is the equivalent of nearly 18,000 calories. To put that into perspective, 28-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps says he consumed 8,000-10,000 calories per day at the height of his swimming career.

But for Chestnut, winning the competition is much bigger and more important than most can stomach.

“I love competing in that event,” he said. “I love celebrating America with my fans all over this great country on the 4th and I have been training to defend my title.”