Takeru Kobayashi Out Of Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest? (VIDEOS)

There may be a whole lot of hot dogs left over at this year's Fourth of July eating contest.

Legendary professional food scarfer Takeru Kobayashi is not expected to take part in the Coney Island event much to the chagrin of competitive eating fans everywhere. Contract negotiations that would allow Kobayashi to take part in the contest have reportedly stalled.

Major League Eating President Richard Shea released the following statement:

Takeru Kobayashi is currently not scheduled to compete in the 2010 Nathan's Famous July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest. In recent weeks, Major League Eating has sought to arrive at an agreement with Kobayashi, but contract negotiations have reached an impasse. MLE remains hopeful that Kobayashi, who won the contest from 2001-2006, will decide to compete this July 4th in Coney Island, when Joey Chestnut will seek his fourth consecutive title.

Some have raised the possibility that the whole thing is a publicity stunt, but that seems unlikely.

The 5'8", 128-192 lb Kobayashi took the food world by storm in 2001 after winning his first July 4th contest. He went on to win a record six consecutive championships, and in doing so became the face of competitive eating the world over.

But Kobayashi's career has stalled a bit in recent years as his main rival Joey Chestnut took over as the reigning King of Coney.

Speaking to reporters, Shea said:

Clearly, we are in the Joey Chestnut era, but I never thought we were also in the post-Kobayashi era. It's sad, but perhaps Koby is protecting his legacy. He can't go out on top, but he doesn't want to go out a loser.

Watch some highlights from Kobayashi's career, including the time he faced off against A BEAR!