"I like to win when I can, but it's definitely hard," said Janus, who holds world records for eating almost 12 pounds of burritos, 141 pieces of Nigiri sushi, 61 pulled pork sliders, 10.5 pounds of Ramen Noodles and four pounds of tiramisu.
"I'm ranked No. 2 in the world, but I still have to worry about the one guy ranked ahead of me. I'm going to do my best and hope."
Janus, also referred to as "Eater X" because he obscures his face during competition, started eating competitively nine years ago on a whim.
"It sounded like a fun way to spend an afternoon," he said. "I knew I could get better so I stuck with it. And I love a lot of these contests. I've had a couple internationally - I was in Australia, Thailand, and every contest has its own unique qualities."
No. 3 in the nation, Thomas is the top female in the competition. Weighing in at only 105 pounds, Thomas has packed away 11 pounds of cheesecake, 80 chicken nuggets, a 9-pound cheeseburger, and 10 pounds of meatballs, among many items.
Miki Sudo, currently ranked at No. 7, is an up-and-coming rookie who is nearly matching 10-year veteran Thomas' records left and right.
In her rookie outing, Sudo downed 40 hotdogs at Nathan's Hotdog Eating Contest - perhaps the best known American competition and a universal barometer for rankings.
"Competing head to head is a whole different level of adrenaline," Sudo said. "I want to live up to that No. 7 ranking. I'm just a girl with a huge appetite on certain days."
This will be the first head-to-head matchup for the two women, and for the competitive eating community, it will set up the rest of the season.
"Sonya is one of my toughest opponents," Sudo said. "Sonya is a champion when it comes to eating hotdogs. If I can even keep pace with her, it's a personal win for me. She has 10 years of experience. It's going to be interesting."
This contest is one of the last where the major players will compete before the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, where rankings will be determined.
George Shea, chairman of Major League Eating, considers pepperoni rolls similar to hot dogs.
Saturday's event will test competitors from around the country as they inhale the approximately 6-by-2-inch pepperoni rolls. Swearingen said this variety will contain stick pepperoni as opposed to slices or pieces.
Shea said there are three main components to competitive eating: jaw-strength, stomach capacity and hand-speed coordination.
Jaw-strength is important when a food item requires a lot of chewing.
"When you're eating chicken wings, the way you manage the wings is very important to get the meat off quickly and easily. Capacity is less important because you're spending more time maneuvering the wing," Shea said.
"In something like a pepperoni roll, jaw-strength will be important because of the density of the dough, and capacity will be important."
The eating contest is 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Palatine Park in Fairmont. Competitors will battle for $6,500 in prize money.
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