Matt Stonie Resides on Cusp of Ushering in New Era in Competitive Eating

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

Joey Chestnut, center, reacts alongside Tim Janus, left, and Matt Stonie, right, after competing in the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating contest at Coney Island, Friday, July 4, 2014, in New York. Chestnut won his eighth contest by finishing 61 hotdogs and buns. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

Matt Stonie may not have prevented Joey Chestnut from winning his eighth title at the 2014 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, but his contention proved the sport's throne is in danger.

The "Megatoad" era is almost upon us.

At just over 22 years of age, the new pro hailing from San Jose kept pace with the legend himself for most of the contest and already holds a number of world records:

The RecordAmountTime
Birthday Cake5.5 pounds8 Minutes, 59 Seconds
Creek Indian Tacos32.5 8 minutes
Frozen Yogurt10.5lb6 Minutes
Gyoza26810 minutes
Gyros24 8-oz10 Minutes
Slugburgers3110 Minutes

While not quite as lengthy as Chestnut's list, for a newcomer on the scene in the infancy of his prime, it's readily apparent Stonie is closer to that marquee victory than anyone could have imagined just one year ago.

That includes Chestnut, one half of what is quickly becoming the sport's greatest rivalry. The champ didn't mince words in regards to his greatest challenger after winning on Friday, as captured by Todd Smith of Cox Communications:

We can't know just how confident Chestnut was when he uttered that statement, but the past year has shown Stonie has what it takes to hang.

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In fact, it was Chestnut himself who acknowledged that the rapid rise of the San Jose native forced his hand in certain areas, including a rib-eating contest last year, per the Gazette-Journal (via Grantland's Danny Chau):

"Stonie has been working his butt off. He is making me work. I usually don’t practice for ribs.”

It's not as if Chestnut has been unscathed during Stonie's meteoric rise, either. As Chau notes, the youngster inhaled 10 pounds of pan-fried Japanese dumplings last year to smash a world record, win $2,000 and upstage his rival:

Perhaps most important of all, Stonie took down Chestnut in a deep-fried asparagus event in April of 2013, a monumental upset (he ate 9.5 pounds to Chestnut's eight) considering the reigning No. 1 competitive eater began his epic journey there in 2005, per Robert Silverman of Vice.

So as expected, Friday was an all-out war between the two, a duel perfectly encapsulated by Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports:

Stonie fell short near the conclusion on a rain-soaked day, but the birth of an epic rivalry has been legitimized in the eyes of the public. For all of Chestnut's accolades and his legendary training, his greatest rival has turned out to be a college kid with rather humble beginnings, as Stonie told Silverman:

There was a local place that had a five-pound burrito and I thought it would be cool to be the first person in town to finish the burrito. That was just for fun. Then a few years ago I was up in the Boston area and there was a lobster roll eating contest just like five minutes away from my house with a thousand-dollar prize. I won, and beat a bunch of pro guys and I was like, β€˜I can do this.'

That he can, and it's the exact infusion of competition the MLE (Major League Eating, for those non-hardcore fans out there) so desperately needed. After years of one competitor seemingly running away with each contest, some semblance of parity has been achieved with the emergence of Stonie.

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

As an added bonus, the two aren't reserved in their feelings toward each other in what is a budding rivalry with no offseason as the two duel in contests around the globe.

Stonie is far from his peak at this stage of his life, but he has already helped to begin a new era by simply challenging the king. The next step is surpassing Chestnut, a feat nobody should proclaim is impossible for the sport's hottest-growing commodity.

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