Major League Eating
|Major League Eating
|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
Major League Eating (MLE) is an organization that sanctions professional competitive eating events and television specials. The stated mission of Major League Eating 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. 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 to oversee/regulate/organize events/TV deals. IFOCE later changed its name to "Major League Eating" (MLE). The Shea brothers still represent Nathan's.
MLE was founded as 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, and 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 of California, Sonya Thomas of Virginia and "Notorious B.O.B." Bob Shoudt of Philadelphia. The IFOCE currently is in a dispute with Takeru Kobayashi of Japan over whether competitors may also participate in contests not sanctioned by the IFOCE. 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 Glutton Bowl, a two-hour eating event on the Fox Network. In 2007 the IFOCE produced four one-hour programs for Spike TV under the title Chowdown. In 2006, the 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. The Alka-Seltzer U.S. Open of Competitive eating, a three-hour elimination tournament was a 2005 IFOCE production. In addition, the IFOCE produced four 30-minute shows under the title of Tour de Gorge and six 30-minute shows titled Eats of Strength for INHD.
IFOCE changed its name to Major League Eating (MLE) in the early 2000s.
The IFOCE maintains principal offices in New York City and operates in the United States. The Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, the TV Food Network and the UK’s Channel Four have also aired one-hour documentaries on eating and the IFOCE and Fox Television aired a two-hour IFOCE championship.
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.
Mustard Yellow Belt
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 2007. Kobayashi left IFOCE in 2010.
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. The ESPN2 airing also ranks as the 6th highest-rated and 5th most-watched telecast of the year on ESPN2, behind NCAA Football, NBA and World Cup.