He may be 45 years old and in the middle of his supposed retirement tour, but Fedor Emelianenko is still very much a factor at the sharp end of Bellator’s heavyweight division, as the promotion’s latest rankings illustrate.

“The Last Emperor” knocked out Tim Johnson at Bellator 269 with a stunning three-punch combo to score a crowd-pleasing victory in front of his fellow countrymen in Moscow, Russia.

As well as the victory itself, Fedor’s performance also saw him surge into championship contention at the sharp end of the Bellator heavyweight rankings.

Fedor’s knockout victory saw him gatecrash the Bellator top 10, with the Russian pegged at No. 3 in the official rankings list. Johnson, who went into the fight ranked No. 2, has been relegated to No. 4, with French contender Cheick Kongo bumped up to No. 2.

The top of the list features heavyweight champion Ryan Bader and interim champion Valentin Moldavsky.

While Moldavsky can lay claim to the next shot at Bader’s undisputed title, Emelianenko’s impending retirement, coupled with his legendary status, could see him thrust to the front of the queue to face Bader.

It remains to be seen whether Fedor wants to face Bader again – the American knocked him out inside a round to win the heavyweight grand prix in January 2019. But if he does, a clash with Bader for the title in Chicago would appear to be a serious option for Bellator president Scott Coker.

Regardless of his next move, one thing seems clear. Fedor remains one of the most compelling figures to watch compete, in any promotion.

Bellator heavyweight rankings

Champion: Ryan Bader (28-7)
Interim Champion: Valentin Moldavsky (11-1)
2. Cheick Kongo (31-11-2) +1
3. Fedor Emelianenko (40-6) NR
4. Tim Johnson (15-8) -2
5. Tyrell Fortune (11-1) -1
6. Linton Vassell (20-8) -1
7. Steve Mowry (9-0) -1
8. Said Sowma (8-2)
9. Davion Franklin (4-0) -2
10. Jake Hager (3-0)