Erik "The Red" Denmark, reigning Arizona Hot Dog Eating Champ, will join a group of top competitive eaters at an finest competitive eaters in the country will battle it out at an official Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Qualifier at the Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe June 11.

At stake is the title of Arizona Hot Dog Eating Champion and the chance to compete in the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, N.Y.

In fact, the top finishing male and the top finishing female competitor at this qualifier will earn a chance to compete in separate men's and women's division finals in Coney Island July 4.

Seattle's Erik ‘The Red' returns to Tempe hungry for a three-peat, after securing the Arizona hot dog eating title two years in a row and a personal best of 38 hot dogs and buns at the finals in 2010. Local upstarts Ron Sirard of Tempe, Brian Jacobson of Phoenix, Chilin Peng of Scottsdale and female-favorite Michelle Lesco of Tucson will vie to return the hot dog eating crown to Arizona soil. Ryan ‘Big Red' McKillop, MLE's No. 34-ranked eater, will be flying in from Sacramento with hopes of upsetting the No. 7-ranked Erik "The Red" as well.

"Winning the Arizona hot dog eating contest two years in a row has given Erik ‘The Red' a Lando Calrissian-like swagger," said Richard Shea, president of Major League Eating. "He's confident for sure, but there are local eaters who feel strongly that an Arizona resident should represent the state on July 4. This will be a battle of ‘Home and Away,' ‘Good versus Evil.'"

The Nathan's Famous contest circuit will visit nearly a dozen cities in 2011. The male and female champions from each qualifier will compete in the ESPN televised finals at the original Nathan's Famous in Coney Island July 4.

Host cities of the 2011 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Circuit include Las Vegas, NV, Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, Atlantic City, NJ, Cleveland, OH, Pittsburgh, PA, New York, NY, Thackerville, OK, Charlotte, NC, Los Angeles, CA and Poughkeepsie, NY. This year, Nathan's will also hold qualifying events in Calgary, Canada and Beijing, China.

According to archives, the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest has occurred each July 4 in Coney Island, N.Y., since 1916, the year Nathan Handwerker opened the legendary restaurant. Major League Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centric sport, sanctions the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Circuit and ensures the contests are judged professionally and that safety standards are in place at each event.

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