Primed and ready, Joey Chestnut is the favorite in the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Monday at Coney Island.
A lot of message board commenters are crowing that it's not really a fair fight because Chestnut's biggest adversary, Takeru Kobayashi, isn't competing.
For six years (2001 to 2006), Kobayashi ruled the hot dog eating contest with his thin build (5-foot-8, 130 pounds) and unconventional ways of jiggling while eating.
In 2001, the 33-year-old from Japan ate a record 50 hot dogs, double the total of the previous year's winner. The record was so unexpected that organizers had to hand write numbers on pieces of paper because they ran out of numbered signs.
Then along came Chestnut.
"I was watching how he was doing it and then I figured I could improve upon that," said Chestnut, a construction engineer from California. "I didn't just eat hot dogs. I studied how the food went into your system and how it would be digested."
Chestnut blew away Kobayashi and hasn't looked back. He's now won four titles in a row with no one even close.
Kobayashi, who realized that he might not win the hot dog eating contest again, wanted to compete all over the world in other eating ventures. But Kobayashi got in a major tiff with the eating sanctioning body -- Major League Eating -- because he wanted to compete in non-sanctioned events. MLE said no chance, booting him out of the league and banning him from the Coney Island contest.
Last year, Kobayashi tried to storm the stage and eventually was arrested on charges of obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct. Those charges were dismissed. Now he's just a figment of the imagination of the fans.
"First off, he's an awesome eater. You can't take that away from him. He was on top for so long," Chestnut said. "But when I started to beat him and kept beating him, he didn't bow out gracefully. He became a 'fame [expletive].' If I started to lose, I would be thankful for the ride and go out fishing."
We're a few hours away from the contest and Kobayashi is in New York. But he'll be eating hot dogs at a Manhattan rooftop bar, miles away from the real action.