Takeru Kobayashi, the 32-year-old Japanese dynamo, is at odds with Major League Eating, the group that officiates what's widely regarded as the Super Bowl of American gluttony.
"We are trying to come to an agreement. We are at an impasse," Rich Shea, co-president of MLE, told AOL News. "We know the fans want him."
The 160-pound gustatory god stunned the world in 2001 when he doubled the world record by eating 50 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.
Kobayashi would go on to win the coveted mustard-yellow belt at Coney Island six consecutive times. But in the past four years, Joey Chestnut of California has eaten him under the table, woofing down an amazing 68 franks and buns in just 10 minutes last year, leading some to believe the former hot dog champ has turned chicken.
"I wouldn't say that," Chestnut told AOL News. "Kobayashi is a great eater and not afraid to compete."
Chestnut did suggest, however, that his old rival might be trying to add some intrigue to the event, as he has in the past.
"Three years ago, there was rumbling that he wouldn't show up because he said he had a jaw injury. But he eventually came, and it was a great contest.
"If this is just a game he's playing, it's disheartening," Chestnut said. "If not, I wish him the best. Either way, I'll be pushing hard to set a new record."
Even if Kobayashi bails on the Coney Island contest, several other promising eaters will go chew-for-chew with Chestnut. His chief rival will likely be Patrick Bertoletti of Chicago, who finished in third place last year, eating 55 dogs and buns.
MLE won't say what the sticking points are as it negotiates with Kobayashi's lawyers. But Shea indicated that it's no different than what goes on in other sports.
"Certainly, you wouldn't see Tom Brady compete in arena football a week after the Super Bowl," he said.