Just when you thought he was out, they pull Mark Long back in. The “Godfather” of The Challenge: All Stars returns to competition for season 3 alongside the most stacked lineup in the competition reality series’ history. In a first, the field is made up of only past contestants who have qualified for or won a final of a Challenge series, which first premiered in 1998. Long, also an executive producer and initial Paramount+ spinoff visionary, is also a true OG in this environment going back more than 20 years to MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge.
The 50-year-old Long was part of the inaugural season of All Stars where he finished fifth. Winner Yes Duffy, and season 2 champs Jonna Mannion and M.J. Garrett, are also back. They’ll be joining the mix of veterans and spinoff newbies including Darrell Taylor, Derrick Kosinski, Jordan Wisley, Veronica Portillo and Wes Bergmann.
Here, Long explains his motivations for entering the most grueling series in the Challenge environment. It goes deeper than simply competing to earn that share of the $500,000.
Before we get into All Stars, I just saw you on WWE’s NXT. How was that experience?
Mark Long: The Miz and I had a huge moment at WrestleMania. I got introduced to the NXT guys in Orlando. It was awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw me in the ring at some point in the next six months doing something. The fans are the same as reality TV fans. They love it. They were eating it up. Grayson [Waller], my buddy on NXT, is a heel now. So I was having everyone boo me and yelling at people in the crowd. The announcers gave me the proper introduction as the MTV Challenge legend.
THE MIZ AND MARK LONG AT #WRESTLEMANIA!!!! @challengemtv fans rejoice ALL OVER pic.twitter.com/n0sbrTkmTF
— Rob Lopez (@r0bato) April 3, 2022
Both certainly involve a lot of physicality. Speaking of which, what made you come back for season 3?
[Around] season 2, I got offered to do Worst Cooks in America on Food Network. That was a fish-out-of-water thing for me because I literally am not a cook. I didn’t even have a full set of pots and pans when I did that show. I did that because I wanted to introduce myself to a new audience. Then I caught wind of how epic the third season [of The Challenge] was going to be. The funny thing is when I get the call to be a cast member, even though I’m an executive producer, they tell me the least of any cast member. I am so in the dark. I have always found The Challenge to be my family and the roots of what I enjoy the most. I feel like it’s the most talked about, sought-after Challenge in years. Then they announced the cast; Wes is coming back and Jordan, who we haven’t seen in a while. Nia [Moore] and Veronica [Portillo] coming back. So many big-time players. Everyone is bringing their best. It’s such a good group. I couldn’t say no.
And names who haven’t been in The Challenge, like Cynthia [Roberts] and Roni [Martin], are back after around, what, 20 years?
You just hit the nail on the head. We’re digging through the history of the show and pulling out these names. Roni is a baller, such an athlete. Cynthia is such a sweetheart. She hasn’t done many of these, so I felt like she was a little bit of a fish out of water when she showed up. It’s fun because not only are all of us so competitive and want to win, but a lot of us have families and kids. It’s fun for the fans who have grown up with us to see the evolution of us as people. That is the secret sauce of this show. The Challenge franchise is awesome. I love it. I love those people over there. They’ve incorporated a lot of new faces, which is great. But we have so many new faces that haven’t been on All Stars that have reached out and want to come back if there is a season 4.
Johnny Bananas’ name has been thrown around on that list. But who would you like to see in a future season?
Johnny for sure. There was talk of him coming on season 3, but he got injured and had to bow out. There were definitely talks of him coming on. That unicorn sort of cast member is a Theo Von because he was such a polarizing, funny, unique character. I’ve had conversations with him. He is just so locked in with his comedy tour and that space that I think for him to come back is not really feasible. Maybe down the line. Even those who may be a little disgruntled think, “Wow, what an amazing grown-up summer camp you’ve created for us to show our families.” We are super competitive. There is backstabbing and nastiness sometimes. At the end of the day, we do care about each other, which I think is special. We’re playing a game and we have to make dirty moves. At the end of the day, we can have a premiere party and hug each other and show up and not take it personally.
What was your strategy this time around?
I was a gunslinger. I was able to play a little more freely. I had a girlfriend in the first season. Not that I was trying to politick my way to the end, but if it came down to that, I would. I could act a little freer with my conversations or be able to talk to people one-on-one without it being weird. I’m still fighting for my mother who is still battling Stage 4 cancer since season 1. She is still around and doing alright. Still looking forward to the show. I told people on the first day that I am playing for such a bigger kind of presence than just winning this game. I’m playing for my mom. It’s going to take f–kin’ King Kong or Superman to get me out of this house. I meant it going in. You’ll just have to see how it plays out.
Being 50, you are showing age is but a number.
This is the way I always lived. Nobody ever guesses my age. When I tell people I’m 50, they can’t believe it. I have always been huge into health and fitness and wellness. Mental health is a huge part of this game and creating a safe space in your mind to do these crazy things. And not be anxiety-driven every day. To be honest with you, when I found out my mom had Stage 4 cancer I had a terrible bout of situational depression and anxiety that crippled me for about two months. I came out on the other side and it was so refreshing to see these friends with whom I’ve had a relationship for a dozen to 20 years. I wouldn’t feel hesitant at all to do something on the flagship show just to stick my 50-year-old, size 15 shoe up some kids’ ass.
The Challenge: All Stars, Season 3 Premiere, May 11, Paramount+