Not that long ago, Juliana Miller came close to quitting MMA entirely.
Miller (2-1), an Invicta FC alum who has stayed busy competing in grappling as well, will feature on The Ultimate Fighter 30, which kicks off Tuesday night on ESPN+. You know the drill by now: UFC hopefuls live in a house together, train under a couple of established pros — in this case, Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes — and work their way through a tournament-style format to win their way into the UFC.
While Dana White’s Contender Series has essentially eclipsed TUF in terms of popularity, the return of the show last summer proved there was life in the concept yet. In season 30, Miller will be one of eight women’s flyweights vying for a spot on the big show.
There was a point where it nearly didn’t happen. Not just TUF, but her MMA career period.
While Miller now sees making the show as something that “was meant to be,” that wasn’t always the case. “I was going through a period where I was unsure if fighting was the best career option for me, if I’m being honest. I was really thinking about joining the military as a pilot,” Miller told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview recently. “I’m 25 now. For me, being able to set up for the future is incredibly important. I want to buy a house. Although I always believed in myself to make it, I’ve seen fighters give themselves to this sport, and the only thing they have to show for it is a broken body. And it’s heart breaking.”
Miller had a talk with her coaches, and questioned whether fighting was the best option for her. Her coaches unanimously advised against enlisting. From there, Miller went into an emotional intelligence course with her options, and even prayed on the matter, looking for a sign, despite not being “extremely religious.”
“Lo and behold, I got a message from one of the producers saying ‘hey we think you should apply for TUF,'” recalled Miller. “I applied, and I was like ‘man if this is not the sign I was asking for, I don’t know what is.'”
Miller believes that it’s more than just her fighting that fans will ultimately connect with. “It really just goes to show that one, I am a great fighter, but I think it’s more than that. I think that people do want to see a persona, and I’m a really relatable character. I’ve overcome domestic violence, depression, all kinds of just traumatic things that normal people go through on a daily basis. And these are things that stop people from living their dreams, but I’m one of the few that found a healthy way to overcome it through emotional intelligence.”
The 25-year old known known as “Killer” Miller exudes confidence, which should serve her well through the course of the season.
“I’m really excited to go out there, I believe in myself, that I’m going to win, but the stars aligned for this for me,” she told us. “So I know I’m meant to be here, and more than winning the whole show, I really want to go out there and show the whole world that you can do it. You really can live out your dream and don’t quit, don’t be like me and almost quit on it. I’ve always wanted to do something high-athletic, I still want to be a pilot, but I’m really just excited to share my story with the world and be motivation for people, and I think just being relatable like that is something people enjoy seeing.”
“I’m just a f*cking powerhouse, man. I’m gonna leave it all in the cage,” she finished.
Watch our full interview with TUF 30’s Juliana Miller above.