What is the difference between a KO and a TKO?

UFC 278: Usman v Edwards 2
UFC 278: Usman v Edwards 2 / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

What is the difference between a KO and a TKO?

While it definitely is more important for a fighter to get the win in whatever fashion possible, it is always that much sweeter when a fight is won by finishing the opponent and leaving it out of the judges’ hands.

And when a fighter scores a solid knockout or technical knockout (TKO), it’s that much more exciting — and you’ll definitely be seeing it on the fighter’s highlight reel.

Yes, there are differences between knockouts (KOs) and technical knockouts (TKOs). Usually, when an analyst does predictions or when looking at sportsbooks, you will see the two terms mixed together.

Here we will go over the differences between a KO and a TKO.

What is a knockout (KO)

Simply put, a fight ends in a knockout (KO) when a fighter makes contact with his or her opponent by way of a punch, kick, elbow, knee, or slam — or any sort of striking combination — that leaves the opponent unable to immediately continue the fight.

Usually, knockouts (KOs) indicate that a fighter has fallen into a state of unconsciousness. And while that is usually the case for what happens in KOs, it’s not a requirement.

Famous MMA official “Big” John McCarthy, who helped create the Unified Rules of MMA, once explained that a fighter being able to defend himself or herself and being able to continue fighting plays a bigger role than consciousness.

Unlike boxing, there is no KO by way of a referee’s count of 10 due to the fact MMA fights often find their way to the ground and include grappling. Knockouts, however, can occur on the ground, by either the top or bottom fighter.

What is a technical knockout (TKO)

A technical knockout (TKO) occurs when one fighter is overwhelmed by the attack of his or her opponent and is “unintelligently defending himself or herself.” A referee or another third party steps in to stop the fight for the safety and protection of the losing fighter.

In MMA, there are three different types of TKO:
Referee stoppage: The referee steps in and stops a fight when a fighter is not defending himself or herself from the opponent’s strikes.

Corner stoppage: A fighter’s cornerman stops the fight for his/her own fighter’s sake, or a fighter quits the fight between rounds.

Doctor’s stoppage: The ringside physician elects to stop the fight due to excessive bleeding from a cut or another physical injury

Submission due to strikes (UFC only): A fighter submits to the opponent’s striking attack. While most MMA promotions consider this a submission, it is ruled a TKO in the UFC.