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Hot dog-devouring legend Kobayashi to miss Independence Day dog fest

By Jesse Solomon, CNN
Takeru Kobayashi, won Nathan's July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Contest every year from 2001 to 2006.
Takeru Kobayashi, won Nathan's July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Contest every year from 2001 to 2006.
  • NEW: Kobayashi says contract is too restrictive
  • Hot dog eating legend won't compete in July 4 contest
  • Kobayashi won titles from 2001-2006
  • Negotiations with Major League Eating are at "impasse"

New York (CNN) -- For the first time in almost a decade, the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island will go on without its most recognizable face.

Takeru Kobayashi, who took home six consecutive titles from 2001 to 2006, will not be participating in the challenge this year because of a dispute with Major League Eating (MLE), the association's president, Richard Shea, said in a statement Monday. The organization describes itself on its website as "the world body that oversees all professional eating contests."

"Takeru Kobayashi is currently not scheduled to compete in the 2010 Nathan's Famous July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest," the statement said. "Major League Eating has sought to arrive at an agreement with Kobayashi, but contract negotiations have reached an impasse."

Kobayashi says he loves the contest and he would love to participate, but the contract is too restrictive. Speaking through an interpreter, he said that all his income is earned through competitive eating. He said the new contract required by the competition would bar him from competing elsewhere in the United States or Canada for a year.

Hailing from Japan and weighing in at 160 pounds, Kobayashi, 31, rose to frank-feasting stardom in 2001 when he devoured 50 dogs, shattering the previously held record of 25 1/8.

But in 2007, having entered the challenge with a jaw injury, Kobayashi met his match in Joey Chestnut. Chestnut, of San Jose, California, downed 66 dogs to Kobayashi's 63 that year. Kobayashi has not won the competition since.

"We respect his place in the history of our sport," MLE Chairman George Shea told CNN. "Everyone will always remember him for ushering in the modern era of eating."

Chestnut, the reigning wiener warrior for the last three years, gobbled a record 68 hot dogs in 2009. Chestnut, who weighs 230 pounds, is currently ranked No. 1 in competitive eating by the MLE.

For a hot dog to be counted as finished, competitors must consume both the hot dog and the bun.

Currently ranked third, Kobayashi still holds world records for eating cow brains (17.7 pounds in 15 minutes), lobster rolls (41 in 15 minutes) and rice balls (20 pounds in 30 minutes).