MTV revealed the cast members for “The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros.” Former WWE Champion and current UFC welterweight fighter CM Punk will be featured on the new season. MTV issued the following press release:
Ten of the Strongest Athletes From Across The Sports World Compete For Ultimate Bragging Rights During A Special Six-Week Series
NEW YORK, NY (April 24, 2017) – MTV expands one if its most popular and iconic franchises, “The Challenge,” with the debut of a special six-week event “The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros” premiering Tuesday, May 16 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT. The series answers the question – what will happen when ten of America’s top athletes go up against ten of MTV’s top competitors from “The Challenge?” Hosted by NFL star, Victor Cruz, “Champs vs. Pros” will feature some of the strongest competitors from the “The Challenge” franchise, going head to head with some of the fiercest competitors who span the professional sports world from football to skiing, UFC to surfing and more. The roster of Pros is outlined below. The Champs will be announced after “The Challenge: Invasion of the Champions” finale and reunion special on Tuesday, May 9.
“In what promises to be the most competitive clash of teams in Challenge history, viewers will finally get their wish to see how our champs stack up against professional athletes,” said Nina L. Diaz, EVP, Head of Unscripted Programming for MTV and VH1. “As a Super Bowl and a Pro Bowl champion, Victor Cruz is the ultimate all-star and we are beyond excited to have him as our MVP and host for this epic Challenge.”
“The Challenge” is an iconic MTV series that I grew up watching,” said host Victor Cruz. “The sports world is known for producing remarkable athletes, colorful characters and memorable heroes, but this competition will give my fellow pro-athletes a chance to test their skills against some of the absolute best Challenge Champs and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!”
Each episode of the six-week event will focus on a different strength: Agility, Ingenuity, Brawn, Brains, Endurance, and Guts. Every week the winning team’s captain will choose one member of their team to go into the elimination round and the rest of the team will vote in their opponent. The losing team’s captain is automatically sent into elimination and their team will also nominate their opponent. The final male and female competitors of the season will be put to the ultimate test, showcasing each strength in one heart-pounding race for the chance to win $50,000 to donate to their favorite charity.
Meet the Host and Pros of “The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros:”
NFL Wide Receiver
Super Bowl champion and NFL wide receiver, Victor Cruz grew up in Paterson, NJ – just a few miles from the Giants’ home field at MetLife Stadium. After graduating from high school, Cruz continued his football career at The University of Massachusetts where he was ranked 13th in the NCAA for receiving yards per game. As an undrafted free agent in 2010, Cruz impressively played his way into the professional league and onto the Giants’ 53-man regular season roster. In Super Bowl XLVI, Cruz tied an NFL record for the longest play with a 99-yard touchdown reception and was an integral part of the Giants victory over the Patriots. Off the field, Cruz is recognized as a fashion icon and tastemaker and is the first football player to have a signature lifestyle shoe for Nike. In 2012, Cruz established the Victor Cruz Foundation to promote positive change in the lives of youth by providing innovative educational programs that equip students with skill sets to prepare them for a successful future. Now, adding MTV to his impressive resume, Cruz joins “The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros” as the series host.
At just 19-years-old, Tia Blanco has become one of the most talked about amateurs in women’s surfing. Winning both the 2014 under 18 National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Southwest Women’s and Surfing Prime America Women’s competitions, Blanco surfs with power and style. As a member of the USA Surfing Team, Blanco took 3rd overall in the 2014 World Juniors. Defending her title, Blanco was the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Games Gold Medalist for the second time and the ISA World Jr. Games Silver Medalist. She is currently working hard to qualify for the World Tour for the first time. In addition to being a highly decorated athlete, Blanco is also an outspoken vegan. Blanco has become an ambassador for the animal rights association, PETA2, and is frequently featured in health media as a role model and athlete. In 2014 she won a PETA “Libby” Award for her service and was voted runner up in the 2015 PETA “World’s Hottest Veg Celeb.” Blanco is joining forces with “The Challenge” to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Olympian & Fitness Expert
Hailing from the UK, Louise Hazel is a celebrity competition veteran. In 2015, Hazel finished 2nd on Channel 4 reality winter sport show “The Jump,” and was the only competitor to attempt the K40 (the biggest ski jump) on live television during series two. Hazel has also competed in the Semi-Final stage of ITV’s “Ninja Warrior UK Text Santa Special,” and won “Celebrity Come Dine With Me”, “Celebrity Pointless,” and “Celebrity The Chase.” With so many celebrity competition accomplishments under her belt, there’s no question whether this personal trainer and fitness expert is ready for “The Challenge.” In the sports world, Hazel won a Commonwealth Gold Medal in the Heptathlon in 2010 and represented Team Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympic Games. She is widely known for her online fat loss plan “The Podium Effect,” the world’s first” 360-day online solution to weight management. Hazel is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit Save the Children.
Three-time Olympian Lindsey Jacobellis is arguably the most dominant snowboard cross rider in history. At 11-years-old, Jacobellis started racing snowboard cross at a local event held at Stratton Mountain, VT. She followed her passion for racing to the winter sports academy, Stratton Mountain School, where she was able to train each day without sacrificing her education. Jacobellis was first invited to compete in the X Games at the age of 15 and landed herself a spot on the U.S. Snowboarding team by age 17. Her hard work definitely paid off as she now holds the record for most Gold Medals won at the Winter X Games for any female. She has been on the World Cup Tour for 14 years and is looking forward to competing at another Olympic Games. Jacobellis is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit ASPCA.
Olympic Hurdler, Bobsledder & World Champion
Lolo Jones has conquered the Olympics no matter the season. The three-time Olympian competed in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games and 2012 London Summer Olympic Games as a hurdler. She came back in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to compete as part of the US Bobsled Team. With two World Champion titles for the 60M hurdles, in 2008 and 2010, and a Gold Medal at the 2010 USA Nationals, Jones knows how to win. She’s no stranger to celebrity competition either – Jones was a contestant in Season 19 of “Dancing with the Stars.” Jones is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit Hurdles of Hope.
Professional Skier & Olympic Medalist
Professional skier, Gus Kenworthy is a viral internet sensation turned Olympic Medalist. At the age of 16, Kenworthy compiled footage of his skiing into a one-minute video submission for a prestigious free-skiing event. The clip took the internet by storm, and industry professionals began to notice. Kenworthy picked up his first sponsor, and his professional career began to take off. Now a legend in the sport, Kenworthy has multiple claims to fame, including the first ever double cork 1080 in a half pipe, the first ever double flip on a hip jump and the first double flip off a rail. At the age of 23, he earned the privilege of representing the USA in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and brought home a silver medal in slopestyle. In 2015, Kenworthy made the bold and courageous decision to come out as a proud gay man. Never one to shy away from the camera or his fans, he chose to deliver this news on the cover of ESPN magazine. With multiple Winter X Games medals and countless other championships, he continues to challenge his opponents on the competition circuit. Kenworthy is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit both The Trevor Project and the Happy Hippie Foundation.
Retired NFL Linebacker
Commanding and fearless NFL powerhouse Shawne Merriman never met a quarterback he couldn’t sack. Largely regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in the league’s history, this former first-round draft pick and three-time Pro-Bowl and All-Pro linebacker is known as ‘Lights Out’ to the world, a nickname originating from his unmatched power on the field and ability to ignite his teammates while intimidating the opposition. Merriman’s excellence and drive for success did not subside when he exited the stadium. His undeniable tenacity and dedication has led to international success in both business and entertainment. It is not only Merriman’s strength and performance on the field that makes him so magnetic. His fervent desire to give back to his community and inherent entrepreneurial spirit are what make him a truly remarkable man. As a child, Merriman was the victim of two house fires, and he was homeless as a result. Now a father himself, he has worked tirelessly in an effort to give back to his community and assist homeless children and families in need. Merriman is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit his charity, the Lights On Foundation.
CM Punk, born Phil Brooks, is a UFC fighter. Prior to making his UFC debut, he was a WWE Superstar and two-time WWE Champion. In addition, he has worked with the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL Network as a guest analyst. Punk has accumulated a large social media following and is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit PAWS Chicago.
Professional Snowboarder & Olympian
Louie Vito was a member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, a four-time Overall U.S. Grand Prix Champion and is a two-time Dew Cup Overall Champion. He has also accumulated six career X Games medals, including two Gold Medals. In an unprecedented streak between the 2010 Olympics and spring 2012, Vito managed the unheard of feat of earning podium positions in 20 of the world’s 23 major snowboarding contests, including three consecutive X Games medals, the overall championship for the Winter Action Sports Tour, and the overall championship in the U.S. Grand Prix (the third of his career at that time). In January 2014, Vito was the first athlete to ever both co-host and compete in the X Games where he won the Silver Medal in the Superpipe. Vito turned professional at age 17 and immediately became a familiar presence on winners’ podiums. Vito has won fans off the mountain as well – he competed on season 9 of “Dancing With The Stars,” was named Men’s Health Magazine’s Top 50 Most Fit Athletes in the World and appeared on numerous TV shows on Nickelodeon such as “100 Things to do before High School” and “Jagger Eaton’s Mega Life.” In 2015, Vito won a Young Hollywood Award as the country’s “Most Awesome Athlete.” Vito is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit Wings for Life.
Retired NFL Star
Former Tennessee Titans linebacker, Kamerion Wimbley is the epitome of a gentle giant. Hard-hitting on the field yet kind and warm-hearted off the field, it is no surprise that fans and media flock to Wimbley’s personality. Starting his football career at Florida State University, Wimbley quickly became one of the top defensive ends in the nation after he was awarded All-ACC and All-American honors by Pro Football Weekly. Turning his passion for the game into a career, Wimbley was a 13th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft by The Cleveland Browns. After playing eight successful seasons as a NFL athlete, in 2015 he decided it was time to hang up his cleats to prepare for his future after football. Now focusing on his company, KW Growth Holdings, Wimbley continues to make it his mission to give back to the community. Wimbley is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit his charity The Kamerion Wimbley Foundation.
Former WNBA Athlete
Candice Wiggins is a retired professional basketball player. Wiggins played college basketball at Stanford University, where she graduated as the all-time leading scorer in Stanford and Pac-10 women’s basketball history. Throughout her playing career, Wiggins played for the Minnesota Lynx, Tulsa Shock, Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and has played overseas in Spain and Greece. Wiggins has won a WNBA championship (2011) and WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year (2008). Wiggins is teaming up with “The Challenge” to benefit Greater Than Aids.
Fans can join the social conversation using #ChampsVsPros on Instagram: @ChallengeMTV, Twitter: @ChallengeMTV and Facebook: facebook.com/mtvthechallenge
“Champs vs. Pros” was created for MTV by Bunim/Murray Productions. Jonathan Murray, Gil Goldschein, Scott Freeman and Lisa Fletcher serve as Executive Producers and Matt Ruecker serves as Co-Executive Producer.
About Bunim/Murray Productions
Bunim/Murray Productions (BMP) is the leading producer of innovative entertainment content. The Emmy Award-winning company is widely credited with creating the reality television genre with its hit series The Real World (32 seasons on MTV). BMP continued to innovate with the first reality game show, Road Rules (MTV), in 1995; the first reality sitcom, The Simple Life (E!), in 2003; and the first reality soap opera, Starting Over, in 2003. BMP’s current programming includes Mariah’s World, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Rob & Chyna, Life of Kylie, Total Divas, Total Bellas and So Cosmo (E!), The Real World and The Challenge (MTV), Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars (Lifetime), Valerie’s Home Cooking (Food Network), Born This Way (A&E), The Gary Owen Show (BET), Earth Live (National Geographic), Bill Nye Saves the World (Netflix), The Selection: Special Operations Experiment (History), The Healer (TLC) and Chachi’s World (go90). BMP has also produced films, including They Call Us Monsters, Valentine Road (HBO), Pedro (MTV) and the Emmy Award-winning Autism: The Musical (HBO). BMP has launched additional entities including BMP Films, BMP Digital and BMP Latin. Based in Glendale, CA, the company was founded in 1987 by Jonathan Murray and the late Mary-Ellis Bunim, who were inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame in 2012. The company joined Banijay Group in 2010.
MTV is a global youth culture brand inspired by music. For more information, check out mtvpress.com. MTV is a unit of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA).