The Survivor alum is back for The Challenge: World Championship, opening up about the competition, his wife Kiki’s advice and which missions he hates most.
While Danny McCray is the one competing on “Survivor,” “The Challenge: USA” and now “The Challenge: World Championship,” his wife Kiki is just as big a star for viewers — and, according to the football player, she laid down the law when it comes to his reality TV career.
The former Dallas Cowboy first appeared on the Survivor 41 in 2021, before he was recruited to play on CBS’ “The Challenge: USA” last year. After winning that show, he was fast-tracked to “World Championship,” which finds him facing off against some truly legendary competition — including Challenge legends like Johnny Bananas, Darrell Taylor, Jonna Stephens and Wes Bergmann.
His back-to-back appearances across the franchise have clearly delighted his wife, Kiki, who McCray talks about at length throughout his many confessionals and who is a massive fan of the MTV series. So big a fan, in fact, she only urged him to do “Survivor” so he could possibly follow in the footsteps of alums like Tyson Apostol who also made the jump over to “The Challenge.”
TooFab caught up with Danny ahead of Wednesday’s season premiere of “World Championship,” where he opened up about the words of encouragement he got from his wife, what his possible “Challenge” future looks like, how the show compares to “Survivor” and which challenges he really hates.
After you were one of the winners of The Challenge USA, going into this one what were you really hoping to prove for World Championship?
Not necessarily prove anything, but it doesn’t hurt to go back to back and try and win that grand prize money again. Like I said, it’s the only reason I’m on there. Nothing to really prove as far as how good I am at the challenge, I’ve done that in my professional career as a former NFL player. It’s really all about the money when I go on The Challenge.
You’ve said that you don’t think you would return to Survivor, but The Challenge now it’s two times in a row. What is it about doing this show that appeals to you more?
You know what, if I’m being honest, it’s my wife. My wife is like: ‘Hey listen, when you go on Survivor, we don’t get a chance to see you, there are no phone calls, no FaceTime, any of that. So you can’t go back. I need to be able to get in contact with you. So The Challenge is the only place you can go.’ And plus, she’s an ultimate fan of The Challenge, so it is actually her dream. So she loves it.
Wasn’t part of the reason you did Survivor in the first place because she kind of thought it would lead you down this Challenge road?
Yeah, that’s the reason that she gave me the okay to do it. So I originally wanted to go on Survivor, but she would only say yes if I agreed to go on The Challenge if they called. So it was a little give and take there.
How many more of these do you think you have in you? Because obviously some people like Johnny Bananas has done twenty years worth of this show at this point. Do you see yourself being a professional Challenge player? What does your future, do you think, look like?
My future is running youth football camps for the Dallas Cowboys. I’m not sure how many more times I’ll be doing The Challenge. I really can’t express this enough, I do not like swimming. I don’t like long swim, I don’t like heights. It gives me serious anxiety. Had I not won The Challenge USA, I may have not gone back on The Challenge again.
Even in the premiere, those eating challenges also seem just … ugh, I couldn’t do it.
Man, the eating challenges. You don’t know how bad it is until you get there. We lucked out in the USA with the onions and garlic, I’ll say that.
Compared to other contestants that are on this season, you are relatively new to The Challenge world. As you said, you did these two back to back. How was it being thrown in with some of these icons, these legendary people, like Johnny Bananas, like Wes? What was it like interacting with them and how did you prepare for that?
It was cool to a certain extent to get on there. I’ve been watching The Challenge with my wife for a while, so I’ve been watching Johnny, I’ve been watching Darrell, I’ve been watching all these legends for a while. So to get to meet them in person and see what they’re really like, versus kind of the perception that you draw on your own when you see them on TV. That was interesting. Some of them live up to the love or hate that you would give for them when you watched them on the screen, and some of them you didn’t feel it was warranted once you finally met them and get to know who they were. So that was actually one of the most fun parts of being on the World Championship.
Who did surprise you the most? For better or worse.
Probably [Jordan Wiseley]. Jordan probably surprised me the most. The last real outburst that I had seen from Jordan was him and Turbo getting into it. And I saw him on All Stars and him and I were kind of on a redemption story, but I knew that Jordan had a little fiery temper and could get a little loud once the argument started rolling.
Who did Kiki want to know the most about? Who is she really dying to know about?
You know what, it’s funny because we actually met [Tori Deal] back in 2018 before I even thought about going on Survivor or The Challenge. We met her out in New York, my wife was a fan, she asked for a hug, Tori gave her a hug, so she had been loving Tori ever since then. So of course that was one person where she was like, ‘So how is she actually? I know when we met she was a good person but I’ve seen her on TV, some stuff changed with her and Jordan’s relationship, tell me how she really is.’
Coming off of The Challenge USA, there was obviously some controversy about the finale for that one when it came to the rules possibly not being entirely clear to either those watching at home or some of the contestants. How do you think the world championship compared in that aspect?
I’m going to continue to stand on the fact that I felt the rules were pretty clear in The Challenge USA final. Sudoku is sudoku. People who kind of paused the clips and went back, they explained it enough … the Angela thing and some of the other time out stuff, I thought that was pretty clear just based on how the final was going. So I would say it was about the same. It was about the same.
When you are going into this show, where some people have done this show together multiple times in the past, do you see those bonds and is it hard to break into these groups that have known each other longer?
Yeah, I think it’s almost impossible. That’s why you have to figure out, in my mind, my strategy, would always be if I was going on the MTV version, I would try to rally as many people as I could, to make sure that we got those people out. If you are connected to somebody based off of you playing six or seven seasons on the MTV version, then we need to get that whole entire group out. Because you’re not breaking in. They will cut your throat as soon as they get the chance.
How do you think the challenges this time compared to the ones last season? Is there something that you can tease that you were really just shocked that you were thrown into it?
Man, I’ll tell you what. My tastebuds, you spoke to that, the eating challenge is a lot different than The Challenge USA. Like I said, we got off a little easy, I thought it would be a little easier on this one but they cranked it up 1000%. It was a lot. It was a lot.
You brought up your wife Kiki, she’s all over your confessionals again. What were her words of encouragement going into this one?
Not necessarily encouragement., it’s like, ‘If you’re going to leave me here for six weeks and leave me here with the two-year-old, you better make it worth it. You better come back with some money, alright? So go out there, win the game, there are no friends. Make sure that you are willing to throw whoever you have to under the bus to make this money because that’s the only way you can go.’
How do we get Kiki on one of these shows with you? Would you ever do something like The Amazing Race where you could do it together?
I don’t believe Kiki is cut out for The Challenge, but maybe there is a TV show out there that she would join. I think right now we have a two-year-old, so it would be hard for her to be away from little Zoe for that long. But you know, as she gets older, we’ll see.
What do you think Zoe is going to think of your reality show career in the future when she is finally old enough to understand?
You know what, the good thing about it is, I think that I stayed true to myself on these shows. so she’ll be proud of what her dad did on there. She’ll be proud of it and maybe it’ll be an example for her when she goes into possibly reality TV or whatever she wants to do.
“The Challenge: World Championship” premieres Wednesday, March 8 on Paramount+.