A competitive eater who has attempted to set records by eating sausage rolls and chocolate is aiming to qualify for the sport's most prestigious competition.

John Dawes, from Billingham, who works at Amazon, has set his sights on qualifying for Major League Eating's (MLE) annual Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Mr Dawes, who is well-known for his eating feats - including eating 21 Greggs sausage rolls in a bid to set a new record - said he jumped at the chance to compete in the league's first UK qualifier.

He finished third at the contest in Selsey, West Sussex, last Saturday (August 26) but said he does not think it will be enough to make it to this year's event.

Read more: Greggs fan from Teesside takes on sausage rolls record at Yorkshire hotel

The Northern Echo: John

Despite this, he said he's aiming to travel to the US and compete in another qualifier.

Mr Dawes said: "It was quite surreal. It's not normal, you're eating with American eaters, worldwide eaters, in one place - I've only been eating with British eaters.

"It's eating on a bigger stage than I'm used to, it was surreal. It took me back a bit."

He added: "It's everything I've worked for, I want to compete in the MLE, I want to compete at the highest level.

"Obviously, I've not got there this time - I can still try to go, but I need to buy a ticket to go to America to qualify."

Mr Dawes said he needs to improve on his last effort, adding: "I need a lot more practice, because I only got 14 hot dogs.

"I just want to put UK eating on the map."

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The Northern Echo: John posing with the trophies

The Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest has been given the moniker the 'World Cup' of eating competitions.

Competitors in the qualifying round undertook the challenge of eating Nathan's Famous hot dogs, buns included.

The world championship men’s and women’s contests will take place in Coney Island, New York, on July 4 2024.

Joey Chestnut, from Westfield, Indiana, currently holds the world record of 76 hot dogs and buns eaten in 10 minutes and earned his 16th title as hot dog-eating world champion this year.

The victor of the UK qualifier was Max Stanford, who ate 34 hot dogs - he has previously eaten 141 Oreos in five minutes, 23 McPlant burgers in less than an hour, and 50 cream eggs in 24 minutes, among other achievements.

Mr Dawes said he had initially finished fourth in the qualifying round, but was later promoted to third due to a "discrepancy" with a bun.

He added that he plans on increasing his stomach capacity to ensure he can compete with his peers, and plans to drink "a hell of a lot more" and have larger meals to achieve this.

The Northern Echo: John with son Declan (L), winner Max Stanford (C),  Radim Dvoracek (R)

He said before breaking into competitive eating he suffered from anxiety and depression, but the British Eating League (BEL) and sport allowed him to branch out and make friends worldwide.

He said he hopes to make his son proud and plans on filling the void left by UK's number one eater, Max Stanford, who is leaving for the competition in the US, by taking this spot.

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The Northern Echo: John, Max, Radim

"I've got to start picking up my fork," Mr Dawes said.

Mr Dawes also said he has attempted to break the record for eating the most of Mr Beast's Feastables chocolate bars - 22 bars in 30 minutes - and will be submitting this to Record Setter.

He said competing has given him a new sense of confidence, and spoke of how meeting new fans leaves him feeling "amazing."