“The last two seasons, I’ve had early dismissals on both of them. There may be some other factors that go into that, but I felt like I really needed to show up this season, I really needed to remind the fans who I am,” the First Look host, 37, tells Us Weekly exclusively in the latest issue, on newsstands now. “I needed to show other cast members — especially the ones who were starting to doubt me — who I am. And even more importantly, I needed to prove to myself that I still had it in me. As much confidence that I have in myself and my abilities, that self-doubt does start to creep into your head. I think this season more than anything, my biggest critic and one of my biggest naysayers was myself.”
Bananas began his career on The Real World: Key West in 2005. Now, he’s turned that 15 minutes of fame into 15 years — and he felt the motivation to win this time more than ever. Last season, he went into the game with one goal: beat Wes Bergmann. This time, he wanted the W.
“They say father time is undefeated, and I’d be lying if I said that I’m not feeling the effects of just getting older and being later on in life,” the six-time champ says. “I remember going back to like, Exes I, the last time Mark Long was on the show. I worked out every day. I’d be in the gym, and I remember I asked him a few￼ times, ‘Hey, let’s work out.’ He’s like, ‘No man, we’ve got a challenge tomorrow, I don’t want to be ￼sore.’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Now, I get it.”
Bananas also adds that while he’s in good physical shape, the competition is real in season 35.
“You show up day one and T.J. [Lavin]’s like, ‘Alright guys, it’s gonna be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.’ And I’m sitting there looking down the row of these dudes and I’m like, ‘How am I gonna pull this one off?’ I think that goes through my mind every season,” he admits. “It’s like murderer’s row!”
That said, don’t expect Bananas to hang up his Challenge hat just yet.
“I’ve never been one of these ones to jump in right away and be like, ‘I’m retiring,'” he says, noting that after Final Reckoning, he had “never been closer” to being done with the show.
“You can only mentally bounce back so many times,” the Champs vs. Stars 2 winner explains. “You get to the point where it’s, like, If I’ve gone through this much, and I still wasn’t able to see this through, I now don’t think I ever can.”
He continues: “Competing this season, it wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t about the seventh win. It wasn’t about the curse. … I’ve been putting it out there, ‘I’m going to do these until the cows come home, until my body tells me [I can’t].’ I was, like, I need to at least do well this season to prove to myself that I’m still able to do this at a high level.”
For more from Bananas, listen to the “Watch With Us” podcast above and pick up the latest issue of Us Weekly.
The Challenge: Total Madness premiers on MTV Wednesday, April 1, at 8 p.m. ET.