An ESPN documentary airing on July 2 will tell the story of Joey Chestnut's success and his ongoing rivalry with Takeru Kobayashi
Joey Chestnut is less than two weeks away from defending his title at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, and as the eating champion reveals to PEOPLE, July 4th isn’t the only date that he indulges on hot dogs.
“It’s pretty rare for them to not be in our fridge, I have usually a good supply of all beef hot dogs,” the eating champion, 35, tells PEOPLE. “I mean, there are times when I’m not eating buns if I’m on a low carb diet. I’ll have hot dogs and romaine lettuce, but if I’m at a baseball game, I’m always eating a hot dog.”
Since 2005, Chestnut has competed in Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, which takes place annually on July 4th at Coney Island. In 2007, he ate 66 hot dogs, claiming his first victory and kicking off the start of his long-time rivalry with six-time champion Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi.
“It’s one of those things, like runners after they run a marathon like crazy 26 miles, they still like to run,” Chestnut adds. “And I still like to eat hot dogs.”
In last year’s competition, the California native broke the all-time record, downing 74 hot dogs and buns. This year, Chesnut’s goal is simple: keep his streak alive.
“The crowd loves a record and if they’re gonna be standing out there in crazy, blistering heat on the 4th of July, I mean, if they’re doing it, I may as well try and give them a record,” he says. “I’m definitely trying.”
Chestnut’s infamous rivalry with Kobayashi, 41, has largely contributed to the popularity of the event. While the competition is done in good fun, the two champions remain at odds with one another, even outside of the eating area.
“He doesn’t really want to have anything to do with me, I don’t think,” the Amazing Race alum explains.
Chestnut continues, “He doesn’t lose, every time he ever loses, there’s a reason. Not because the person ate more than him, there is a reason why he lost. I love competing against him and part of it is that that’s one of the best things to beat somebody who doesn’t accept losing. There’s no better feeling than beating someone who’s up on a high horse.”
The intense rivalry between the two has even spawned an upcoming ESPN documentary, The Good, The Bad, The Hungry, which will be released two days before the next July 4th competition, and tells the story of Chestnut and Kobayashi’s individual success, and combative relationship.
“First, I was like super excited and honored and then I quickly became scared,” Chestnut admits of learning about the documentary from director Nicole Lucas Haimes.
“Because a documentary you have no control over what they’re going to do,” he adds. “It took me a long time to trust her, I mean competitive eating is weird.”
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With 11 title victories under his belt, Chestnut is eyeing his 12th next month, and by the looks of it, his competitive nature isn’t fading anytime soon.
“As long as I’m healthy, as long as I’m still having fun, I’m going to do it,” he says. “Even if someone comes and beats me, I’m still going to be having fun.”
“The contests are so addicting and I love it,” he adds. “It’s just one of those things that bring people together, and even if I feel bad when I’m older, I’ll find a way to be involved in it a little bit.”
The Good, The Bad, The Hungry premieres Tuesday, July 2, at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.