Joey Chestnut Fights Off Protestor in Darth Vader Mask While Competing in Hot Dog Eating Contest

Joey Chestnut took down an animal activist who rushed the stage wearing a Darth Vader mask 

Joey Chestnut defended his competitive eating title in a whole new way.

At the Nathan's Famous Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York on July 4, Chestnut, 38, managed to eat a total of63 hot dogs and buns — and take down a protester — in10 minutes.

In a clip from the competition, Chestnut is seen devouring his 18th hotdog when protesters rushed the stage. One man was wearing a Darth Vader mask and carrying a sign that read, "Expose Smithfield Deathstar," referencing pork supplier Smithfield Foods, according to animal activist group Direct Action Everywhere.

Chester, vying for his 15th win in the competition, wrapped his arm around the neck of the protester and held on until contest officials could get to them and take over.

After the altercation, the soon-to-be champion calmly returned to scarfing down hot dogs.

"I was just confused. I didn't know what was going on. I thought someone fell into me at first. He moved more in front of me. It just happened really quick," Chestnut told the New York Post after the competition. "When he got in front of me … I didn't know if he was gonna attack me. There was a little bit of panic, and that's why I grabbed him, and I wasn't sure — I didn't know how it was all gonna play out."

The men involved in the protest were reportedly arrested and charged with criminal trespassing charges but later released from jail, according to Direct Action Everywhere.

Chestnut's win at this year's competition was certainly impressive, although not his best. Last year, the competitor ate a whopping 76 hotdogs in the contest, a new record.

A protester interrupts the 2022 Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest as Joey Chestnut grabbed him down from his neck in Coney Island, New York City, United States on July 4, 2022.
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty

After the competition had changed locations for the 2020 and 2021 competitions, Chester told ESPN, "It's beautiful to be back here."

Despite having to wear a surgical boot this year due to a leg injury, Chesnut said he couldn't be slowed down during the contest. "It hurts, but I was in the zone for a little bit. I was ignoring it," he said.

Chester's 63 hot dogs created a 15.5 hot dog gap between him and the next competitor, Geoffrey Esper, who put down a total of 47.5 hot dogs.

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