The Challenge
Credit: Ian Spanier/MTV

Never has the title of MTV’s The Challenge been more crushingly poignant. As the series enters its 26th season, the show also mourns the loss of veterans Diem Brown and Ryan Knight, who died within weeks of one another in November.

EW can exclusively reveal that The Challenge is dedicating its next season Battle of the Exes II (premiering Jan. 6, 2015, at 11 p.m. ET) to Brown and Knight, who died Nov. 27 at the age of 29. Both competed in Exes II, Diem with former on-screen love Chris “CT” Tamburello and Knight with his ex (and former Real World: New Orleans housemate) Jemmye Carroll.

MTV is also honoring Brown with a We <3 Diem special on Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 9 p.m. ET. A passionate and outspoken advocate for women’s health, the eight-time Challenge competitor collapsed during filming in September and ultimately lost her third battle with cancer on Nov. 14 at the age of 34. “Since debuting on MTV’s The Challenge in 2006 and battling cancer three times in the public eye, Diem Brown has become a role model for her courage and positivity to thousands of fans,” the network said in a statement. “We’ve followed her through her unwavering attempts to win a Challenge and her infamous on/off relationship with fellow cast mate and longtime love CT, while simultaneously combating her disease off-camera. In We <3 Diem, we look back at Diem’s powerful journey, giving tribute to her perseverance and strength through it all.”

Eleven more couples joined Diem, CT, Knight, and Jemmye in Panama for Exes II, including partners from The Real World: Ex-plosion and Are You the One? Though the $350,000 prize remains the same, Exes II is adding a new midseason twist called “Battle of the Ex-iled,” in which eliminated partners can return to reclaim their place in the competition.

The remaining teams include:

“Bananas” is currently spoken for, and his one-time hook-up with Nany happened off-screen, so it seems unlikely viewers will ever see any action. But seeing how bossy, hyper-competitive “Bananas” deals with a partner is always transfixing.

Jonna left her boyfriend for Zach on Battle of the Seasons, and they lived together in L.A. before Zach suddenly broke off the relationship, leaving Jonna with unresolved feelings.

Cameras didn’t catch the Free Agents fooling around, but no one is fooled by their claim that “nothing happened.”

This short-lived Fresh Meat 2 affair ended on bad terms, especially when Theresa moved on with Leroy during Rivals II.

After a brief dalliance in Rivals II, Real World: Brooklyn‘s Sarah was eliminated, and Portland housemate Jordan was on to the next. What goes around comes around?

The Real World: Portland roommates took their domesticated bliss off-camera… until cheating allegations by Johnny led to their split before Free Agents.

Thomas’ cold behavior eventually forced Hailey out of the Real World: Ex-plosion house.

Since their Free Agents fling, Real World Portland‘s Jessica has feuded on Twitter with Dustin’s new girlfriend.

Adam and Brittany had a tempestuous time in Hawaii during Are You the One? No surprise: They weren’t Perfect Matches.

Jenna crashed Jay’s shot at fame on The Real World: Ex-plosion, but tight quarters was the least of problems for the distrustful on-and-off couple.

Another ill-advised couple from Are You the One?, Simone wouldn’t stop pursuing John even when the Truth Booth denied their compatibility.

The Challenge: Battle of the Exes II premieres Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at 11 p.m. ET on MTV.

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