Gardner turned down $1,000,000 to fight Fedor in 2004
“I enjoyed that first fight and I enjoyed getting back into youth wrestling and that kind of stuff,” Gardner confessed. “I just didn’t have the killer instinct to go out there and just try to hurt somebody. It was almost an unknown feeling to me to feel what I was feeling when I fought, so it was a different journey. I didn’t really know if I wanted to go down to see that part of my personality because it’s a thing you have to pull out of yourself and that; that grittiness. I don’t know if I have that.”
“I’ve been to Rome and I’ve seen the coliseum. I kinda felt like I was a gladiator. I didn’t know if that’s where my calling was in life. I didn’t see myself being that type of fighter,” Gardner continued. “I didn’t see myself as a killer.”
That doesn’t mean, however, he wasn’t close to walking further down the MMA path. In fact, as Gardner revealed to Helwani, the management at PRIDE already had their sights set on Gardner’s next bout: a match with then-PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko.
“They wanted me to jump in there with Fedor. They’d offered me a substantial amount of money,” said Gardner. How substantial? According to Gardner, approximately $1 million.
“They loved the idea of me going against Fedor. You have sambo, you have wrestling, you have two of the classic styles of wrestling. They wanted us to go at it. I just said, ‘You know, I have better aspirations right now I want to get into.'”