Major League Eating

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Major League Eating
CategoryCompetitive eating
HeadquartersNew York City, US
PresidentRichard Shea
Official website

Major League Eating (MLE) is an organization that oversees professional competitive eating events and television specials. MLE's stated mission is to maintain a safe environment for all events, to create a dynamic and enjoyable fan experience, and to help sponsors develop, publicize and execute eating events in a wide variety of food disciplines.[1][failed verification] The league airs its annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN.

Brothers George and Richard Shea took over Nathan's publicity in the mid-1990s and were able to increase the exposure and attendance of Nathan's hot dog eating contest. Seeing a business opportunity, the brothers founded International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) in 1997 as a sanctioning body to oversee, regulate, and organize events and TV deals. IFOCE's professional league became known as Major League Eating.

Major League Eating coordinates events in the United States and Canada.


The International Federation of Competitive Eating, Inc. (IFOCE) is an organization that supervises and regulates eating contests across the globe, acting as a central resource for the sport. Top events include the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, La Costena "Feel the Heat" Jalapeño Eating Challenge, the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship, and the National Buffalo Wing Festival. The IFOCE was founded in 1997 by brothers George and Richard Shea.

The IFOCE counts thousands of competitors in its league, including top-ranked eaters such as Joey Chestnut, Matt Stonie, Sonya Thomas, and Bob Shoudt.The IFOCE develops, promotes and runs more than one hundred events in all variety of venues during its annual circuit.

The organization also produces television shows on competitive eating. In 2002, IFOCE produced The Glutton Bowl, a two-hour eating event on the Fox Network. The Alka-Seltzer U.S. Open of Competitive eating, a three-hour elimination tournament was a 2005 IFOCE production. In 2006, IFOCE produced three hours of programming on ESPN, including a one-hour live show on the 2005 Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest and one-hour shows on the Johnsonville Foods Bratwurst contest and the Krystal Hamburger contest. In addition, IFOCE produced four 30-minute shows under the title of Tour de Gorge and six 30-minute shows titled Eats of Strength for INHD. In 2007, IFOCE produced four one-hour programs for Spike TV under the title Chowdown.

As of July 4, 2010, the IFOCE was in a dispute with Takeru Kobayashi of Japan over whether competitors may also participate in contests not sanctioned by the IFOCE.[2]

Gonzo journalist Ryan Nerz emceed several competitions in 2003 to research while writing his book Eat This Book.[3]

Nationwide branches[edit]

The IFOCE maintains principal offices in New York City and operates in the United States.

The IFOCE maintains a ranking system for competitions it has sanctioned. IFOCE safety measures ensure that all sanctioned matches occur in a controlled environment under the supervision of a licensed emergency medical technician and that only individuals over the age of eighteen compete.[citation needed]

Mustard Yellow Belt[edit]

The Mustard Yellow Belt is the organization's signature championship belt. The belt was rediscovered by IFOCE member Mike DeVito in 1993 after being lost for more than two decades in Japan. DeVito received the belt after winning an eating match against Japan's Orio Ito. The belt was restored by the Shea brothers and is now renowned in the competitive eating world. It was held by Takeru Kobayashi from 2001 to 2006, and then by Joey Chestnut since 2007. Chestnut held the Championship Belt for eight years until Matt Stonie beat him at the July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2015.[4] Chestnut reclaimed the title in 2016 when he ate 70 hot dogs and buns. Chestnut won again in 2017 with 72 hot dogs and buns. In 2018, Chesnut won his 11th title with 74 hot dogs and buns. His 12th title was won in 2019 with 71 hot dogs and buns. He set a new record in 2020 with 75 hot dogs and buns, and increased his record by winning the 2021 crown with 76 hot dogs and buns, claiming his 14th title in 15 years. Chestnut continued his streak in 2022 by winning his 15th title with 63 hotdogs and buns.[5] Most recently, Chestnut won his 16th Nathan’s Famous contest in 2023, with a total of 62 hot dogs and buns.

TV ratings[edit]

The ESPN2 telecast of the 2014 Nathan's event generated a 1.6 rating and 2.8 million viewers, making it the most watched telecast in the contest's history.[6] The ESPN2 airing also ranks as the 6th highest-rated and 5th most-watched telecast of the year on ESPN2, behind NCAA Football, the NBA and the World Cup.[citation needed]

In 2020, the contest was forced to change its format due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the ratings declined significantly, with the number of viewers dropping below 1 million,[7] even though it was the first professional sport to return during the pandemic.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About". IFOCE.
  2. ^ "What happened to Takeru Kobayashi? From Nathan's hot dog-eating champion to obscurity". 2023-07-04. Retrieved 2023-07-06.
  3. ^ "Ryan Nerz | Authors | Macmillan". US Macmillan. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  4. ^ "Matt Stonie tops Joey Chestnut to win Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest". Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  5. ^ "Joey Chestnut, Miki Sudo win Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest". UPI. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  6. ^ "ESPN gives Melanie Collins Hot Dog eating contest gig". Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  7. ^ "Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Tanks in the Ratings". Sports. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  8. ^ Eating, Major League. "Competitive Eating is First Major League Sport Back Amid Crisis". (Press release). Retrieved 2022-09-29.