After Fessy Shafaat criticized The Challenge for not putting more professional athletes on the competition series, show veteran Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio has weighed in — looking at both their records for his shady response.
“Fessy needs to put his phone down. OK, Fessy needs to stop tweeting because, I mean, as much as we wanna sit here and call The Challenge the fifth major American sport, which in a lot of ways it is, at the end of the day, I mean, it is a competition show,” Johnny, 40, exclusively told Us Weekly on Tuesday, October 4. “It’s a reality show.”
He added: “We’ve seen in the past, sometimes — and there’s obviously exceptions to the rules — when professional athletes come on The Challenge, they’re not exactly cut out for it because a lot of professional athletes are used to doing one thing and doing one thing very well, and they’ll come into The Challenge and when the rules are kind of murky here and there, and the game’s different every day and there’s so much house … drama and politics going on.”
The 30-year-old Big Brother alum, for his part, made headlines on Sunday, October 2, tweeting his criticism about the series’ casting choices.
“Ima need The Challenge to start bringing NFL players & professional athletes on the show more often because we would really run circles around them,” the fitness trainer — who competed on Total Madness, Double Agents and Spies, Lies & Allies after previously playing football — wrote via his social media post. “Most professional athletes are only great at one thing. The Challenge is made for those who possess versatility.”
The Real World alum took the opposite perspective, telling Us that he’s not sure Fessy made the right comparison.
“I mean, there was obviously a lot said [and] I mean, I knew right when that tweet was fired off, I’m like, ‘This is not gonna age well,’” Johnny said on Tuesday. “And it did not because he obviously piqued the interest of Danny [McCray], who was the most recent winner of The Challenge: USA, who just so happens to be an ex-professional football player. So, he obviously had something to say about that and then Danny’s wife [Kiki McCray] got involved and … it caught a lot of people’s attention and unfortunately, I don’t think that that really worked in Fessy’s favor all that well.”
The 1st Look host — who has won The Challenge six times — also opened up about his TV rivalry with Tyson Apostol.
“I would love [to compete against Tyson],” Johnny told Us. “Maybe him and Fessy should do the same thing and just put their phones down because they like to say a lot of things on Twitter that get him in a lot of trouble. For all the things I said about Tyson, I think the CBS Challenge would not have been the same without his presence on it. And I gotta give the guy a lot of credit because he is one of the few people that I’ve seen in the past who have really been able to make the crossover from Survivor, from a Big Brother into The Challenge with relative ease.”
He added: “The Challenge — it’s a different world, man. And it doesn’t matter what other competition shows you’ve done, it doesn’t matter if you’ve won Survivor, if you’ve won Big Brother, Challenge is a whole other animal just [because] the game. It’s not necessarily the competition, but it’s the house drama, it’s the politicking, it’s just how to strategize within the house.”
Johnny, for his part, appears on The Challenge: Ride or Dies competition, which premieres later this month.
“I just wanted to go back and not just prove to the fans out there that I still have what it took, but I wanted to prove to myself and I wanted to see if I still had what it took to compete,” the reality TV star told Us. “I just missed it. [After] watching season after season on TV [and] I host the podcast now about The Challenge on the Ringer. … I wanted to get back in there and mix it up a little bit and see if I could go in and still, you know, make my impression felt.”
Johnny’s impression on the game will also be included in MTV’s first official book about the competition. How to Win at The Challenge and Life: A Champion’s Guide to Eliminating Obstacles, Winning Friends, and Making That Money, published by MTV Books, is set for a Tuesday, October 25, release.
The Challenge: Ride or Dies premieres on MTV on Wednesday, October 12, at 8:00 p.m. ET.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi