‘Survivor’ Runner-Up Domenick Abbate Was Hoping to Be Underestimated While Competing on ‘The Challenge: USA’

Domenick Abbate was hoping his second place finish in Survivor: Ghost Island wouldn’t be top of mind for other players as he went in to compete on The Challenge: USA, the CBS iteration of the long-running MTV franchise.

The construction supervisor wanted to fade “into the background” and get his footing in the game.

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“I’m just gonna let the game come to me,” Dom exclusively tells Us Weekly in an interview, which you can watch above. “I will find out pretty quickly who I can and want to work with, whether it be a Survivor person, a Big Brother person, whatever it might be. I want to let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes you have to let the game come to you. If you do too much too early, that can burn you.”

The Challenge USA Cast Preseason Interviews
Laura Barisonzi, courtesy of Paramount ©2022 Paramount, All Rights Reserved.

Of course, in the early days, players would naturally gravitate toward castmates from their respective shows. “Definite Survivor connection immediately,” Dom says. “I know most of the other Survivor contestants outside the game, not a deep relationship with these people but definitely, I’ve run into most of them in my passing. Through social media, we talk a lot.”

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Still, he stayed clear of “any pregame” discussions, and focused on finding a close ally like he had with winner and good friend Wendell Holland on season 36 of Survivor. “If you can find a Wendell in a game like The Challenge, it goes a long way for sure,” the New York native tells Us, adding, “There’s definitely something to be said about loyalty and creating a bond in a game because a strong bond can you through the toughest times out there.”

As for threats, Dom says “seeing there were six members of the Big Brother 23 season,” that made them an obvious one. “Oh no, we’re in trouble,” he explains. “I think that was a lot of people’s concern on day one.”

The Challenge USA Cast Revealed Cast
Laura Barisonzi, Courtesy of Paramount

Dom also looked around to size up the competition’s physical prowess. “The sheer size and physique on some of the other men and women, and realizing I’m 43 years old,” he says with a laugh. “I’m not saying I’m the oldest, there are people my age out there, but I only got two months heads up about doing this show. So I wasn’t really in training for it, let’s put it that way.”

He adds, “People underestimated me on day one.”

The Challenge: USA premieres on CBS Wednesday, July 6, at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.

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