Competitive Eater Takeru Kobayashi Plans to Retire After One Last Hot Dog Showdown

Takeru Kobayashi is getting full. Or rather, he wants to be able to feel full again like normal people.

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Jun. 13 2024, Published 10:38 a.m. ET

Takeru Kobayashi in 2019
Source: Getty Images

These days, competitive eating has been ironically equated to a sport in its own right. Folks have been tuned into contests in which participants do what most of us dream of doing: eating copious amounts of food in as little time as possible. The competitive scene has evolved to include enormous cash prizes and even has its own professional organization called Major League Eating. Competitive eating has been long recognized as a growing niche in the world of sports and fans have Takeru Kobayashi to thank.

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Born in Nagano, Japan, the competitive eater has earned the moniker of "the godfather of competitive eating," largely due to his record-setting performances at various hot dog eating contests. Many credit him for popularizing competitive eating as a sport as he paved the way for the scene to grow in both scope and participation. But after decades of constant eating and training, Takeru is just about ready to let it all digest as he enters retirement. Why did he decide to retire?

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Takeru Kobayashi wants to win one more hot dog eating contest before retiring for good.

Takeru first garnered attention for his sizeable appetite on a Japanese variety show back in 2000. Reportedly, he ate over 16 bowls of ramen in one hour during the TV Champion Gluttony Championship. He would go on to win against his competitive eating mentor in Food Battle Club. After becoming a household name in his home country, his insatiable stomach led him to the U.S.

He participated in the 2001 Nathan's Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest and ate 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, shattering the previous record of approximately 25 hot dogs and setting his first world record. He would go uncontested at Nathan's annual event for six years before losing to current perennial champ Joey Chestnut in a controversial sudden death decision back in 2009. Despite being dethroned, he would continue setting records and racking up wins at other contests and events throughout the years.

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As of 2024, however, Takeru has about had his fill. After more than two decades of competitive eating, he is looking to retire.

The announcement came in Hack Your Health: The Secrets of Your Gut, a Netflix documentary that explores gut health and the science behind consuming food.

"It's all I've done for the last 20 years," Takeru stated in the documentary. He also has concerns about how the competitive scene has affected his health and appetite.

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According to his wife, Maggie James, Takeru can apparently go for days without eating and reportedly feels no appetite or fullness when it comes to eating regularly.

"I hear people say they're hungry and they look very happy after they've eaten," Takeru divulged. "I'm jealous of those people because I no longer feel hunger."

He hopes that retiring will allow him to enjoy the sensation of eating again.

However, he seeks to make one last achievement before officially retiring. Takeru is set to face off against Joey again in Chestnut vs. Kobayashi: Unfinished Beef. The sports event will stream live on Netflix and will see Takeru try to reclaim his throne one last time from the 16-time Nathan's Hot Dog Eating champion.

"Retiring for me will only happen after I take him down one last time," Takeru boasted, according to Tudum.

Takeru also said, "This rivalry has been brewing for a long time. Competing against Joey live on Netflix means fans all over the world can watch me knock him out."

Chestnut vs. Kobayashi: Unfinished Beef will stream live on Netflix on Sept. 2, 2024.

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