Johnny 'Bananas' Devenanzio Knows He Is 'Public Enemy No. 1' on Every Season of 'The Challenge'

"It's a direct result from what I've accomplished on the show," the Ride or Dies star tells PEOPLE, adding, "I've kind of made my bed, so now I just have the sleep in it"

After taking two seasons off following his record eighth Challenge win, Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio returns for Ride or Dies.

"It was the right time," Devenanzio, 40, tells PEOPLE. "I feel like after Total Madness, I definitely needed a mental — more so than a physical — break. I also wanted everyone to miss me a little bit."

Devenanzio pairs up with longtime friend and fellow Challenge vet Nany González to take a stab at winning season 38's $1 million grand prize.

"When given the opportunity to compete with someone who was really close to me and someone that I've been friends with in the past, I couldn't have picked a better [partner]," he says. "Her and I fit the 'Ride or Die' definition. Our dynamic I would is almost like an old married couple or siblings. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to go on paired up with her, and I wanted to really get her that elusive first victory."

One downside of the partnership: "We have some of the same weaknesses along with strengths," Devenanzio admits. "Neither one of us are geniuses when it comes to puzzles, and Nany doesn't exactly work well under pressure."

The Challenge 38 Bananas and Nany

Devenanzio believes "90 percent of the show is mental" and that this time around, host T.J. Lavin pushed the cast to the limit.

"Usually, we will show up and there will be like, one of these mini finals. This season there's like multiple mini finals with multiple different stages of physical and mental challenges," Devenanzio says. "So, coming into this season, I had to adapt to that where it's now not just the most physical team is going to win, there's going to be incorporating a lot of puzzles into it as a way to give everyone kind of an equal chance to win."

THE CHALLENGE 38 Johnny Bananas

The reality star did focus on more mental training going into season 38.

"That was what I was really concerned with was my mental conditioning, not necessarily my physical conditioning," he says. "And it's not as easy as it used to be. I got to put in three times the effort now to get out the same output that I did just a few years back."

Devenanzio credits González, 33, with helping him with his social game.

"Someone like me who's taken two seasons off — the game really has changed a lot and the people in the house have changed a lot," the host of NBC's 1st Look says. "So it helped me tremendously being able to go into a house with a lot of people that I don't necessarily know or have relationships with and because she has been clocked in for the last two seasons, her ability to maintain these relationships and grow these relationships with people really helped out our social game."

RELATED VIDEO: The Challenge: All Stars Mark Long Reveals Who He Was the Most Excited to Compete Against

As per usual, Devenanzio teases that the veterans formed "an unspoken alliance" upon entering the house "because there's so many new faces."

"And obviously we were targeted pretty early on," he continues. "I am Public Enemy No. 1 every season I go into. That's just what I've been accustomed to. The game really has shifted. It's basically the exact opposite of the way it used to be. It used to be the vets would all be in an alliance, rookies would come in and we would target them right out of the gate. Now the vets are outnumbered, and I feel like the rookies are kind of running the show."

The Real World: Key West alum names rookie pair Horatio Gutierrez and Olivia Kaiser as newcomers to watch out for this season, calling the former "the real deal."

"And his partner, Olivia, who is from Love Island, you wouldn't think that she was going to necessarily bring it athletically," Devenanzio continues. "But she surprised a lot of people."


Devenanzio calls Devin Walker "the person I was excited to see" on Ride or Dies.

"Devin and I obviously have a very public, very storied history together and things have gotten really heated between the two of us in the past," the Death, Taxes and Bananas podcast host says. "That guy is one of the biggest pains in the ass that I've ever had to deal with on the show. But I'm hoping that coming into this season, whatever issues or rivalry we had in the past can be put behind us. I mean, listen, if I could put my differences with Wes [Bergmann] aside, I feel I can do anybody."

While Devenanzio may be one of the undisputed Challenge GOATs, he understands "you can never get too comfortable with things being a certain way" on the series.

"Because as soon as you do, T.J. pulls the rug out from under you and the whole game changes," Devenanzio says. "So, it's that adaptability, my ability to understand and read people, and my unwillingness to give up and walk away I would say I attribute my overall success to. And I kept on honing my craft. I kept on learning. I kept on getting better every season and learning from my mistakes and figuring out how to change my game to the point where there was a run there where I was just knocking down wins left and right."

Devenanzio knows C.T. Tamburello's name also comes up often in the discussion of Challenge greats. "Comparing just us as competitors, it's difficult," Devenanzio says. "And trust me, if we ever get put in a situation where one of us is strapped to the other one's back, I think we both know who's going to win that one."

At this point in his Challenge tenure, Devenanzio has learned what to expect from the show.

"You know it's going to send you on an emotional roller coaster," he says of the competition. "It's going to be really difficult mentally and physically, but as long as you're able to prepare yourself for that and not let it be a shock to the system, it's a lot easier to deal with. I show up and I know that from the second I get there, I'm going to have to go to work. It's a direct result from what I've accomplished on the show. I've kind of made my bed, so now I just have the sleep in it."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up to date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

The Challenge: Ride or Dies premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV.

Related Articles