'The Challenge': Why Cara Maria Sorbello Believes Natalie 'Ninja' Duran Is the 'Most Underrated Player' on the Show

Considered one of the most formidable rookies on The Challenge due to her American Ninja Warrior experience, Natalie “Ninja” Duran did not disappoint. Despite reaching the finals in both seasons she has competed in, she received a lot of flack from viewers for her poor swimming and nearly losing a climbing challenge in elimination as she’s a professional rock climber. However, close friend and ally Cara Maria Sorbello defended her and believes she’s the “most underrated player” on the show. 

Natalie ‘Ninja’ Duran on ‘The Challenge’

Three years after Natalie “Ninja” Duran became one of the first women to advance to the Los Angeles finals in American Ninja Warrior (2016), she joined the cast of MTV’s competition reality series, The Challenge 33: War of the Worlds.

Initially partnered with Paulie Calafiore, the two performed well and eliminated physical threats Kam Williams and Ashley Cain in the Killing Floor. The rookie made it to the finals but finished in fourth place, leaving empty-handed.

The finalist returned for War of the Worlds 2 as a Reinforcement and joined Team USA. Again, the American Ninja Warrior star put forth a strong performance as she controversially eliminated Laurel Stucky and made it to the finals.

However, Team UK won, and she walked away without any cash. The 28-year-old did not return for the following season, Total Madness.

Cara Maria Sorbello and Natalie ‘Ninja’ Duran’s friendship

Because the two-time competitor partnered with Calafiore during War of the Worlds, she became close to his girlfriend, Cara Maria Sorbello, by extension.

For War of the Worlds 2, the three were working together on the same alliance throughout the entire season. Many viewers did not like the group as they chose to eliminate anyone who wasn’t working with them, including members of their own team. Additionally, several criticized the allies for playing a “scared game” and skating to the finals.

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In light of today…Thankful for my Royal Family Girls. In my entire challenge life I have never had a support system like I had this season. It was such a strong bond that I repeatedly said I wanted this final more for them than for myself. However, It seems as if the only opinions allowed to be expressed about our alliance comes only from those we had a hand in sending home. I want to show you a glimpse at the story you weren’t meant to see…..the way our alliance felt about EACH OTHER. And truth be told, I was not myself this season. Despite my ups and downs, my girls had my back. They didn’t judge me or push me away. They kept me smiling. They kept me loved. I will never forget that. So while you may only see one side, know that WE who LIVED IT experienced something else entirely. At least we know our story. Without every little piece of this crazy machine, we wouldn’t be here in the end. And for everything you girls did, I will always be loyal and thankful to you. Nothing but respect. ♥️ Edit: this post is just for the girls but in terms of giving all the thanks: without @esther_falana and @idrisvirgo to hold strong and put their feet down day one… it would have been me against ninja which would have given the other alliance complete control to continue destroying us one by one. esther and idris you guys are the REAL ones! ♥️

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However, Cara Maria has insisted that she is close with Ninja as well as the other females in their group, Kayleigh Morris, Ashley Mitchell, and Kam, and says they formed a tight bond throughout the season.

No one in their alliance returned for The Challenge 35: Total Madness except for Ashley, who former ally Dee Nguyen sent home in the second girls’ elimination.

Is Natalie ‘Ninja’ Duran the most underrated player on the show?

In an Instagram Question and Answer, Cara Maria explained she believes her ally is “top of the game when it comes to puzzles, fearlessness, obstacles, drive, and even endurance.”

According to Cara Maria, other Challengers who are athletically strong yet “suck at puzzles are at more of a disadvantage” than the American Ninja Warrior star.

The veteran also pointed out that the two-time finalist “got to the very end of the hardest final in Challenge history,” the only female to do so, and also finished second in the following season.

Additionally, Ninja has defeated formidable opponents and “challenge beasts,” including Kam and Laurel. Therefore, Cara Maria believes her friend and ally is the most underrated player on The Challenge as many don’t give her enough credit for her impressive back-to-back performances.

The Challenge 35: Total Madness airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on MTV.

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