Watch Bell and the other stars compete on The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on MTV
“To be honest, I had never seen the show before,” Bell, 31, tells PEOPLE of joining MTV’s special recurring spin-off of the network’s long-running reality game show.
The show pits 10 celebrities against The Challenge alumni to battle it out in physical competitions to win money for charity — but Bell quickly learned that the game didn’t stop once the players went home for the night.
“It was really intense,” he says. “I was most surprised by the mental aspect of the game. I was prepared for the physical challenges, but I didn’t realize we were going to be playing a game 24 hours of the day and that everything everybody said was part of the game. It never stopped.”
“The mental Olympics we had to play — that truly was the most exhausting,” he adds.
This season, Bell was joined by fellow celebrities including dancer Casper Smart, rapper Lil Mama, Hulk Hogan‘s daughter Brooke Hogan, Big Brother 18‘s Jozea Flores, Cardi B’s sister Hennessy Carolina and model Selita Ebanks. Rounding out the champs were familiar faces Chris ‘CT’ Tamburello, Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio, Wes Bergmann, Kailah Casillas, Tori Deal, Aneesa Ferreira, Shane Landrum, Ashley Mitchell, Tony Raines, Devin Walker and Kam Williams.
And while last season, the champs and stars had to battle each other for the chance to win $150,000 for their charities, this time, the lines are a bit blurred. In the first episode, the teams were comprised of half stars and half champs.
But just because the teams were mixed didn’t always mean they played as one.
“I just kept saying, ‘This show is called Champs vs. Stars,'” Bell says. “I would tell the other stars, ‘I know we are on separate teams, but look at the wall and look at the title of the show.’ The title of the show tells you everything you need to know, so we have to play this game like the stars are still one team.”
Throughout the game, Bell says the stars “clung to each other” in order to survive, which helped them form a close bond that transcended the eight-week competition.
“We have a group text going,” he says of making lasting friendships with his castmates. “We still try to get together whenever we are all in town. Meeting these people and making such great friends was by far the best part of the entire experience.”
Watch Bell and the other stars compete on The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on MTV.