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Roy Nelson Left in Heavyweight Purgatory After Carwin's Withdrawal

UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson was four days removed from knee surgery when the UFC approached him about fighting on the Jan. 1 card. His doctor advised against it, but "Big Country" agreed anyway, which is what it makes it all the more painful to have the bout pulled out from under him now that his opponent, Shane Carwin, has withdrawn with a back injury, Nelson told MMA Fighting.

"I was bummed, but the only reason I was bummed was just because of how much I was pushed to fight Shane. Because of my knee surgery, my doctor said I shouldn't fight until like February or March, and I kind of got pushed into it.

"That's the reason why it hurts, more than anything, is just the fact that I was pushed into something that I really didn't want to do but was going to do just because you don't want to hear the 'Are you an f-ing fighter?' speech. Everybody knows, you never fight 100%, but it was an opportunity and I was more than willing to jump on the opportunity."

When news first hit that Carwin was out of the bout, Nelson's first response was to take to his Twitter with some slightly incendiary comments, suggesting that perhaps Carwin pulled out because he was "not going to pass the drug test."

"That's what someone told me and I just tweeted it," Nelson said. "Me and Shane have been going back and forth with a little banter and we were both joking with each other, anything to lift our spirits up right now. ...I have no idea why he pulled out."

Since Carwin's name was linked to a federal steroid investigation in August, it's the kind of ribbing that might not seem quite so good-natured to some. But to Nelson the jokes seem more like a coping mechanism than anything else.

"To me, everything is a joke in MMA when it comes to serious topics, because you can't really talk seriously about anything in our business. We're in this business to make money, but then nobody wants to talk about how much money we're making. That's serious, but nobody will talk about it. Let's talk about steroids, drugs, politics. That's serious. MMA has a lot of those things that you're not allowed to talk about, like they're completely off-limits. So you have to make a joke out of it."

Instead of giving Nelson a replacement opponent, the UFC opted to pull him from the UFC 125 card altogether. He said he's received no word yet on whether they plan to hold him out of action until Carwin is healthy enough to fight, or whether he'll get another opponent at a later date. Though Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic has publicly offered to step in, the UFC hasn't seemed eager to take him up on the offer, much to Nelson's dismay.

"I'm always down to fight a legend of the sport. Or give me any of the other 28 [heavyweights] who are on the UFC roster. ...I have no idea who I'll fight next. I might be fighting The Undertaker in the Royal Rumble, you never know."

For now, Nelson waits in a sort of no-man's land. The prospect of a fight on January 1 pushed him to rehab his knee faster than he otherwise might have, he said, so at least that was a blessing of sorts.

But until he can get in the Octagon again, he'll still have his recent decision loss to Junior dos Santos running through his mind. While dos Santos won the fight and the chance to face Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title next, Nelson said he learned a great deal from the bout and is eager for a rematch.

And what's the most important lesson he took from the loss?

"You've got to throw more punches than the other guy."

If there's a situation too serious to joke about, "Big Country" hasn't encountered it yet.

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