Why The Challenge 's Johnny Bananas Says He Has Nothing Left to Prove
Twenty years into his career on The Challenge, Johnny Bananas still enters every house thinking this could be the time he, uh, slips up.
Sure, he's competed on 24 total seasons of the show—including the franchise's new global spinoff, The Challenge: World Championship—has a record seven wins under his belt on the flagship and is arguably the series' most notable figure, but don't let his signature toasts and quippy one-liners fool you: The competition takes its toll on the 40-year-old.
"I don't know if you're ever fully mentally prepared for the rigors of The Challenge house and what comes along with that," Johnny told E! News in an exclusive interview. "The mental strain and the emotional strain that house takes on you."
While many people assume he's used to the lifestyle by now, the reality TV vet said his long history on the show makes it even harder.
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"It's not something that gets better," he explained. "It almost makes it worse in a way because you know what to expect. I see rookies coming in and I'm envious of the fact that they have no idea how miserable the environment is gonna get. Ignorance is bliss."
To be fair, Johnny admitted he didn't make the two-month transition from the 38th season of The Challenge—where he and his ride or die Nany Gonzalez came in second place after a grueling 100-hour final—to World Championship any easier on himself. In Spain for work, he admitted to "indulging a little too hard" before filming began in South Africa on the spinoff, which teams legends with MVPs from the U.S., England, Australia and Ukraine spinoff series. "I wasn't feeling too great," the host of NBC's First Look acknowledged. "Just from a physical standpoint, it wasn't exactly how I wanted to enter the game."
Even when he is, by his own definition, out-of-shape heading into the game, Johnny Bananas is still considered a major threat by anyone's standards, given his impressive resume, physical ability and political game. Which is why he had to start campaigning immediately on World Championship, despite not having any history with the international competitors.
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"I was public enemy number one, the moment I stepped in the house," Johnny, who is partnered with The Challenge: USA's Justine Ndiba, explained. "You people aren't even from this country. How do you know that? I need to be the first one to be targeted here. I don't get it. But that's the bed that I've made, so I'm comfortable sleeping in it."
As for an internal pressure, "I don't feel like I have anything to prove anymore in my own opinion," he said before acknowledging, "but it's almost like you're only as good as your last performance."
And his last outing was a particularly devastating one, with Johnny and Nany making a crucial mistake in the last bit of the five day-long final after they were in the lead for a majority of the race. Even though he was this close to securing his eighth win, Johnny said his critics "will find anything they can" to use as a reason to say his "time is up" and he should have retired after his win on Total Madness in 2020.
"It's tough, man," he admitted. "Because I go in and I don't necessarily put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself but there are external forces out there. He just tries to remember, "But you can please some people some time but you can't please all the people all the time."
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And, at the end of the day, Johnny still holds the record for most Challenge wins and has an extra $1.1 million in the bank to show for it.
"I feel like I am playing with house money," the Death, Taxes and Bananas podcast host said. "For better or worse my legacy is is what it is and it's been etched in stone. Anything that I accomplish from here on out—any wins, finals, money I make or steal—will be the cherry on top."
Still, he intends to keep lacing up his sneaks on the OG version of the franchise. Initially slated to appear on season three of that The Challenge: All Stars anytime soon, he has no plans to make the jump for good. While he said he "would love" to eventually the transition over to the nostalgia-fueled spinoff, he's still hungry for the level of competition that the flagship and World Championship are providing.
"Maybe when I'm ready for a breather or to be sent out to pasture, I'll dabble in All Stars," Johnny explained. "But right now I feel like I'm still able and willing to compete at a very high level."
And, with the tease of another possible spinoff that "may or may not be looming on the horizon," Johnny said, "You can never have too much Bananas."
The Challenge: World Championship drops a new episode every Wednesday on Paramount+.