The bull-riding ninja is back.
Venn Johns, a Bixby High School graduate and owner/operator of BA Ninja Warrior Gym, has been selected to compete in season 11 of the TV show “American Ninja Warrior,” an extreme sport competition show where contestants must complete a series of challenging obstacles with names like the unstable bridge and the jumping spider.
This will be Johns’ third time to compete on the show, and the winner gets $1 million.
But Johns has to first qualify for the finals.
That quest begins this weekend, when he’ll compete in a two-day qualifying event in Oklahoma City. About 120 will compete in Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday, April 12-13, with 15 advancing to the finals in Las Vegas. There are five other qualifying cities — Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Seattle/Tacoma.
Competitors who successfully complete the finals course in their designated city move on to the Las Vegas finals.
The NBC series will premiere at 7 p.m. May 29, coincidentally, Johns’ 45th birthday. NBC will air a series of episodes from each qualifying city before airing the Vegas finals beginning Aug. 26.
The Oklahoma City qualifier is slated to air June 12, and the OKC finals will air July 29.
“My goal is not to just make it to Vegas, but it is to climb the 75-foot rope in less than 30 seconds and be an actual American Ninja Warrior,” Johns said, referring to the final obstacle a warrior must complete to be declared the winner and earn the $1 million prize. But the rope climb doesn’t come until a competitor has completed four stages.
Only two people in the 10-year history of the show have completed the rope climb in less than 30 seconds.
“My mindset is I am going to be the third person,” Johns said.
Johns previously competed in seasons 9 and 10.
He competed on season 9 on short notice, leaving him little time to train. In season 10, he was dealing with a series of injuries.
He suspected he might be selected for season 11 so he’s been preparing and expects to do well.
“This season, I’ve had ample training, I have done competitions outside of American Ninja Warrior,” he said. “I feel stronger than I think I’ve ever been before.”
According to a press release, this season of ANW will feature significant changes to the course and the game play, including new rules for the mega-warped wall and never-before-seen obstacles.
Johns, who has competed on the Professional Bull Riders tour and expects to again this year, has to balance his training while running a business.
Johns’ ANW gym is growing and moved into a larger facility at 5666 S. 122nd East Ave. in early 2019.
“Lots of people are coming in who have never been here before. It’s all looking bright,” Johns said.