11/03/2012 04:02 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

American welterweight Kyle Baker shows his hear in loss at Bellator 79

RAMA, Ont. - Kyle (Alley Cat) Baker asked for a moment before sitting down with a reporter after the Bellator 79 post-fight news conference.

He had a nasty hematoma the size of a mini-Snickers bar under his right eye and it was leaking blood. A tissue was needed.

The 32-year-old welterweight from Harrisonburg, Va., has just gone three rounds with Edmonton's Ryan (The Real Deal) Ford, a 170-pound slab of tattooed muscle with a bright future providing Bellator can overcome his criminal record and get him get him into the U.S.

Baker lost a 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 decision and was nearly finished several times before a crowd of 4,200 at Casino Rama on Friday night. The ringside physician had a look at him after the first round but let him continue.

Baker never quit and rallied to threaten Ford on the ground several times.

He paid a heavy price in staying upright in his Bellator debut. Ford finished the fight with a 48-13 edge in power strikes, according to CompuStrike, and it showed on Baker's face afterwards.

"Huge heart," said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, who told Baker he would be welcomed back.

"I'm telling you, all my fights, all the guys that I've fought, this guy is the toughest dude that I've fought so far in my whole career," said Ford. "Hats off to him, that guy would just not go down."

Baker, whose puffy eye accessorized a newsboy cap and luxuriant moustache, was gracious — and funny — in defeat.

"First time in Canada, I had fun," Baker told the news conference. "If you've ever seen me fight before, you probably notice that I fight like that pretty much every time.

"If you're going to be dumb, you've got to be tough. That's what you're going to get when you get a Kyle Baker fight."

Baker, who didn't remember much about the first round, made a point of thanking Ford "for giving me the beating he did.

"That was a fun fight. I enjoy that kind of fight. I'd rather fight somebody tough as hell and lose than I would taking an easy opponent and getting an easy win."

Baker had been preparing to fight Paul (Semtex) Daley but was shifted to face Ford a week before the fight after the English welterweight had visa issues. Daley is a striker so Baker did not spend much time on wrestling. He paid for it against Ford, who took him down four times.

At 12-7, Baker has lost three of his last four fights. But his iron chin and never-say-die attitude pretty much ensure an all-action fight. Fans and promoters like that.

"As long as I'm putting on a good show for the fans, I'm happy with it," said Baker, a former Virginia state wrestling champion and current North American Allied Fight title-holder.

Baker's road to Rama wasn't problem-free. He lost his mouthpiece en route and had to buy a 99-cent Walmart mouthpiece.

"It really didn't do much for me," he said dryly.

Baker put the new mouthpiece in a microwave to soften it up and said he almost bit through it when he tried to mould it to his teeth.

"It definitely offered no padding to my mouth when I was getting hit," he lamented.

At least he didn't lose a tooth. Brazilian heavyweight Thiagos (Big Monster) Santos wasn't so lucky in his TKO loss to Rich (Rare Breed) Hale later in the evening.

Baker works construction when he is not training. He's also a new father, with a two-month-old daughter.

"I get into the gym and train when I can. But there's more important things in life than fighting. When you've got a little baby that just came into this world, you've got to look out for her."

He has been wrestling since he was seven but got into MMA thanks to his brother, who would make him train jiu-jitsu with him in the basement.

He started fighting professionally at 25.

"It just became something where I was like 'Hey man, I can make money fighting people? Why not.'"

While he cut 11 pounds the day before the Ford fight, he was competing at 155 pounds in the past. He says he'll keep fighting "until people get tired of watching me fight."

It's helping him see the world. His previous bout, a loss to Lucio Linhares in March, was in Dubai.

Back in Virginia, Baker and his older brother Beau (Blackjack) Baker are involved in four gyms. He was accompanied in Rama by Arvin Terrell, one of his colleagues at the Harrisonburg location.

After the Ford loss, the Ontario commission told Baker he should be out of the sport for 30 days.

"I feel like I've got two more rounds in me, to tell you the truth," he said.

Baker may have looked like he had been in a war, but was in good humour.

Asked about his moustache, Baker smiled and interrupted the questioner.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" he said. "It's something I just started."

It came out of a beard and Baker — with a straight face — believes it gives him special powers.

"I probably should have been knocked out in that first round but I'm going to attribute that to the moustache."

His nickname Alley Cat sums him up, he says.

"When you think about cats, house cats get their milk put out in front of them every day and alley cats have to go out there and find their dinner. I'm an alley cat."

Baker was after another liquid after the fight.

Asked if he treats himself to a cold beer after such a tough night at the office, Baker didn't miss a beat.

"I've already had three," he said. "I've definitely got a couple more in my future. That's the only thing that's going to make me feel better tonight."