Shane Carwin: 'Every top heavyweight is now in the UFC'

SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 12: Mixed martial arts fighter Shane Carwin waves to the fans before throwing out the first pitch before a baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on April 12, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Interim Heavyweight Champion Shane Carwin's comeback trail has been a long and grueling one to say the least.

After suffering back-to-back losses to Brock Lesnar and current 265-pound champion Junior dos Santos, "The Engineer" was forced to the surgery table where he underwent a couple of procedures to alleviate spinal cord and herniated disk issues.

During his 14-month long hiatus, the promotion's heavyweight division has undergone a major facelift.

All of the Strikeforce big men were drafted into the UFC to fatten up the level of competition with stars such as Lavar Johnson, Shane del Rosario and Antonio Silva joining the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) organization.

And Josh Barnett and Strikeforce World Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier looking to follow suit very soon.

With long time staples Frank Mir, Cain Velasquez, Alistair Overeem and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira still staking their claim in the division, Carwin knows he has a long way to climb on his way back to the top, and it all begins with Roy Nelson.

Check out the former champ's comments about his injuries and coaching opposite "Big Country" on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 (via BJPenn.com) after the jump:

"I feel like I am getting back to where I was before the injuries. If I sound a little tired it's because I had my wisdom teeth pulled yesterday. Everything is looking better every day and I'm excited about getting back into the cage and getting after it. I'm not training at full strength yet, but we are picking up the pace and increasing the intensity every day. I don't want to jump back in too fast and re-injure myself. It's been nice to get in the gym and just be able to improve myself as a fighter. Usually when I'm in the gym we are gameplanning for a scheduled fight, but these past few weeks I have been focusing on myself. I can work on my conditioning and the technical aspect of my game."

"The Engineer" talked in more detail about the injuries and surgical procedures that have kept him out of the Octagon for over a year:

"This last surgery I had was in my mid-back. Before that surgery I had an operation on my neck. I've been involved in sports since I was six and I'm sure fighting has contributed to those injuries, it was just a lot of wear and tear on my body. I had a bulging and a ruptured disk that was compressing my spinal cord. The doctor basically went in there and cleaned it up and drilled out some of my back bone to give my spinal cord some room. It actually allowed some spinal fluid around it again as it had been compressed away from it."

On spending time with Nelson on the set of TUF and his overall opinion the pudgy pugilist::

"I'm sure he will probably test my nerves. I'm sure it will be exciting and I know we don't like one another so I'm sure it will make for some good television. I don't know the guy and I've never hung around him. To be honest with you I never wanted to hang around him! He's a talented fighter and if he would take things more serious he could take it to another level. He's a dangerous guy with some power and he's great on the ground. All I have fought is the best and so has he and I'm looking forward to getting in there with him."

On the current state of the UFC's heavyweight division:

"Every top heavyweight is in the UFC now and that's what everyone wanted. This is one of the only divisions in the world where all the top fighters are concentrated in one organization. We're all here and you get to find out who the best is and where you belong. My last fight was a disappointment and I definitely am looking to get that one back, but I know I have to work my way back up. The good thing is there are enough great fighters to fight and I couldn't be happier about it."

After their coaching stint on TUF, Nelson and Carwin will go toe-to-toe in yet to be determined event.

Roy Nelson is coming off a first round knockout victory over Dave Herman at UFC 146 while Shane looks to avoid his third consecutive loss -- which could be catastrophic for his future fighting career within the promotion. With both fighters possessing heavy hands, don't expect this one to make it to the judges' scorecards.

Who's your early favorite to prevail in this battle of heavy-handed heavyweights?

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