Difference Between KO and TKO in Boxing & MMA

There are similarities and differences between a KO and TKO and that’s what we’re going to look at here. Simply put, K.O. or KO stands for a Knockout, whereas TKO stands for a Technical Knockout.

These terms are used both in boxing as well as MMA, but there are some differences between the two. Keep reading to see exactly what is the difference between a KO and a TKO.

What is a KO?

As stated above a K.O. stands for Knockout and this immediately ends the fight. Whilst many think that a K.O. is only given when a fighter is unconscious, this isn’t the case.

For example, when a boxer is knocked down on the canvas, the ref has to quickly decide to call the knockout immediately or to begin the 10 count.

The boxer might not necessarily be unconscious, but if they can’t get up and continue to fight then the ref will deem this a KO.

Even if the boxer does manage to get to his feet but is still wobbly and unfit to fight, then the referee won’t let it continue further. This is still classed as a knockout, even though the boxer got to his feet. 

If you watched the recent Fury v Whyte fight you would have seen exactly this. Whyte hit the canvas after an uppercut and a slight shove from Fury, but when he got up he was unable to stand up straight. The ref called the fight and it went down as KO for Tyson Fury.

In MMA, when a fighter loses consciousness then the fight is stopped immediately with no count like in boxing.

Also, like in boxing, a referee can stop the bout if a fighter looks as if they can’t continue after being knocked down. That would still be classed as a K.O even if the fighter isn’t unconscious too.

What is a TKO?

Now to look at what a T.K.O is. As we mentioned in the introduction, it stands for Technical Knockout. This can be different in boxing and MMA due to differing rules, so we think it’s best to look at the two separately.

What is a TKO in boxing

A T.K.O in boxing can be called for a few reasons. First, a referee can stop the fight if he deems that one fighter is taking a pummeling and is on the verge of being knocked out. This is classed as a technical knockout and it is to protect the fighter.

In more rare cases, the ringside doctor can also stop a fight, if the ref hasn’t yet if they think the boxer is in danger. This would also be classed as a TKO.

If a boxer has a serious injury and it doesn’t look like vaseline or other medical treatment can help then the ref will stop the fight and this will be a TKO.

A boxer or his corner can also throw in the towel to stop the fight and this is another case when it would be considered a TKO.

Though, some would argue that this is classed as RTD in boxing which stands for retired. If the boxer retires during a round stoppage then that is an RTD and not a T.K.O.

Another time when a TKO can be called in boxing is when a fighter gets knocked down three times in the same round. This is quite an old boxing rule that isn’t always used, it depends on the referee and the governing body.

What is TKO in UFC/MMA

In UFC and MMA, a TKO is awarded when a ref stops the fight because one fighter is unable to defend themselves whilst being constantly pounded on.

Also, as you’re allowed to grapple in MMA there is something called a technical submission (TS). This is when a fighter is in a hold or a lock and doesn’t submit, but the referee stops the fight to protect the fighter. That is what’s classed as a technical submission.


So there you have it, now you should understand the difference between a KO and TKO in boxing and MMA. A knockout in both is when a fighter can’t continue due to unconsciousness or if the ref deems the fighter’s health at risk.

In boxing, you’ll see the ref count to 10 if the decision isn’t called immediately but there’s no count in MMA.

A TKO is when a fighter is conscious but the referee deems them unfit to defend themselves. Another reason is if one of the fighters has a serious injury that the ref deems too dangerous for their health.


Is TKO or KO better?

Both a TKO and KO mean that you win the fight so it’s hard to say one is better than the other. If a boxer wins by TKO it still counts as a knockout on their record. Whereas, if an MMA fighter wins by TKO then it is classed as that and not a KO.

So, as an MMA fighter to make your record look better, you’ll be wanting to win by KO, not a technical knockout.

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