Joey Chestnut's rival says winner of Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest this year will have 'huge asterisk'

The shocking ban of Joey Chestnut from the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest this year has sent his competition into a frenzy, with many backing the 16-time champion.

That included Geoff Esper, the 2023 runner-up to Chestnut, who told TMZ Sports that the 2024 contest winner will have an asterisk next to their name because the reigning champion won’t be able to compete.

“100% there’s gonna be a huge asterisk on that,” Esper said. “Like two or three years ago, I said, ‘Well, even if I do win it because Joey’s not there, there’s gonna be an asterisk.’ I’ll admit that to anybody.”

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Joey Chestnut, right, and Geoff Esper eat burritos during the World Burrito Eating Contest at the Beer Garden in Deer District in Milwaukee on April 6, 2023. (IMAGN)

Esper’s response just shows the respect the competitive eating community has for Chestnut, who is reportedly being barred after signing a deal with Impossible Foods, a rival of Nathan’s that recently launched a vegan wiener, per the New York Post.

It’s also worth noting that the crowd present at Coney Island for the festivities, as well as those watching from home, watch the event because Chestnut is competing.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like this year without him there,” Esper explained. “I was there the year he lost to Matt Stonie, and that was crazy. I think it’s going to be a totally different contest. He’s usually the last one introduced, he comes out, it’s a big show, and we have time to get ready. I don’t know what they are planning.”

JOEY CHESTNUT BREAKS SILENCE AFTER LEARNING HE CANNOT COMPETE IN 2024 HOT DOG EATING CONTEST

The one caveat to no Chestnut in the field? The contest is totally up for grabs, and Esper believes it could come down to the wire.

“I think it might be even more exciting this year because of how close the four of us are to the winning number,” he explained. “The winning number is not going to be in the 70s, but it might come down to the last second.”

Esper added that he will be more nervous than usual this year.

Major League Eating released a statement regarding Chestnut being barred from the contest.

“We are devastated to learn that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a rival brand that sellsplant-based hot dogs rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest,” the MLE said in a statement.

Joey Chestnut stuffs his mouth during the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, July 4, 2019, in New York’s Coney Island. (AP Photo/Sarah Stier, File)

MLE also noted that it allowed Chestnut to participate in a competition that rivals Nathan’s on Labor Day, and it will be broadcast on Netflix. Chestnut was reported to have received $200,000 for appearing in last year’s competition, and was offered a four-year, $1.2 million deal.

However, he decided to promote Impossible Foods instead.

“MLE and Nathan’s went to great lengths to accommodate Joey and his management team, agreeing to the appearance fee and allowing Joey to compete in a rival, unbranded hot dog eating contest on Labor Day,” the league continued.

“Joey Chestnut is an American hero. We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.We hope he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

Impossible Foods chimed in.

Competitive eater Joey Chestnut poses with his mustard yellow championship belt during a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ball State Cardinals at Sanford Stadium on Sept. 9, 2023, in Athens, Georgia. (Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images)

“We love Joey and support him in any contest he chooses,” the company said. “It’s OK to experiment with a new dog. Meat eaters shouldn’t have to be exclusive to just one wiener.”

Chestnut, who ate 62 hot dogs, including the buns, last year to defend his title, would later break his silence on the matter.

“I was gutted to learn from the media that after 19 years Im [sic] banned from the Nathan’s July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest,”Chestnut wrote. “I love competing in that event, I love celebrating America with my fans all over this great country on the 4th and I have been training to defend my title.

“To set the record straight, I do not have a contract with MLE or Nathans and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it relates to other partners I can work with. This is apparently the basis on which I’m being banned, and it doesn’t impact the July 4th event.

“Sadly, this is the decision Nathan’s and Major League Eating are making, and it will deprive the great fans of the holiday’s usual joy and entertainment. To my fans, I love you and appreciate you. Rest assured that you’ll see me eat again soon!! STAY HUNGRY!”

Joey Chestnut attends a weigh-in ceremony before the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, July 3, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Chestnut is considered the greatest of all time in competitive eating, as he holds numerous other world records in the sport. He has won every Nathan’s contest since 2007, except for one, which Esper mentioned with the Stonie upset in 2015.

Chestnut holds the world record with 76 hot dogs and buns consumed, which came in 2021.

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Scott Thompson is a sports writer for Fox News Digital.

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