America Ninja Warrior just completed its 12th season and Daniel Gil came out on top. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 12th season consisted of just eight episodes filmed without fans. PopCulture.com caught up with co-host Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and talked about the one thing that stood out with the latest season of the sports competition series.
"Everyone is now operating with this new normal and being able to have competition with no fans, which is still weird to me," Gbaja-Biamila said to PopCulture. "I get it. I get how big COVID-19 is. But not having the energy from the fans, that makes it challenging and to see the ninjas step up in a big way and compete with no fans." All eight episodes of American Ninja Warrior Season 12 were filmed at the Dome at America's Center where the St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles Rams) used to play. That setting was also different, as the show has taken place at the Las Vegas Strip since the fourth season. As far as Season 13 goes, Gbaja-Biamila says he's on standby.
"Things are ever-changing because of COVID-19," he said. "As we're getting some of the real data, the fans love it. They continue to support it. We had a special season. We crowned a new champion in Daniel Gil. Season 13, by the grace of God, will be a big hit once we get ready to film."
In the meantime, the former NFL defensive end is focused on one of his biggest passions. The 41-year-old loves dogs and working with the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge, which is like American Nina Warrior for man's best friend. In fact, what Gbaja-Biamila saw in the dog challenge reminded him of the show, which is why he got involved.
"I'm a dog lover," he stated. "I wanted to find a way to get involved. This partnership was kind of an organic partnership. I'm excited about dogs and excited about obstacle-course racing. This show is just full of energy and full of excitement. These K-9s are real athletes."
The Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge is being televised across the country, and fans can check their local listings to see when it's being aired. Gbaja-Biamila promises everyone they'll be in for a show.
"If you want to see some dogs do incredible things, I'm talking about the dock diving, the weave poll, the going in-and-out and zig-zagging," Gbaja-Biamila said. "There's just so much excitement because as a true athlete and playing with guys like Ladanian Tomlinson, Jerry Rice and some of the bigger-name athletes I played with in my life, I have respect for athletes and athleticism, and I think the same carries over to the dogs."